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State funding spats aside, researchers are pretty clear on the importance of early childhood education. The National Institute for Early Education Research has created its own list of quality benchmarks that outline what a good pre-kindergarten program looks like. In Texas, though there’s been a recent push for so-called high-quality programs, that hasn’t always come with more funding.

On the ground, this means vastly uneven opportunities when it comes to pre-kindergarten. Part one of two studies confirms the broad variations of pre-kindergarten offerings across the state’s largest school district, Houston Independent School District, as well as the impact high quality programs can have for disadvantaged populations in particular, using data for 50 of the district’s 164 pre-kindergarten programs.