In San Antonio, Building a Community for All Generations from the Beginning

San Antonio has built a thriving city that works for all – and it started with a commitment to its youngest. In November, when city leaders head to San Antonio, Texas for the National League of Cities annual City Summit, the host city is a shining example of local leaders working to build a community for all generations.

The City of San Antonio, Texas has a long-established history of addressing issues of early childhood through public policy and philanthropy.  This commitment, engagement and support, along with the broader community and civic leaders’ awareness, are keys to San Antonio’s workforce development success and the launch and continued success of Pre-K 4 SA, the city’s initiative to develop a highly skilled workforce in one generation through high quality early childhood education that benefits all young children in San Antonio

A History of Early Childhood Investment

In 1999, the city sought to reframe its disparate early childhood, college scholarship and workforce training efforts as a unified economic development strategy. The “Better Jobs Campaign” focused on improving the skills and quality of San Antonio’s labor force. An early childhood task force brought together key partners, including the local workforce board, United Way, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio area school districts, KLRN-TV, a business leaders, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and community-based organizations to support the early childhood workforce and improve the quality of child care.

In 2006, San Antonio’s Mayor Phil Hardberger held an education summit to craft an agenda across the educational pipeline from cradle-to-career. Mayor Hardberger established the P16 Council to collaborate across the many education agencies.

In 2009, Mayor Julian Castro, who campaigned on an explicit education agenda, took office. In fall 2010, the mayor convened SA2020, a visioning process that resulted in six shared community goals. With SA2020 in place, the city worked in partnership with schools and other community partners to press for better alignment and reporting of kindergarten readiness across the 15 school districts located within San Antonio.

In May 2011, Mayor Castro formed the Brainpower Task Force, composed of the most highly respected community and business leaders, to identify what works in education, with a particular focus on early learning, dropout prevention, and college readiness. The task force determined the best way for San Antonio to improve the city’s workforce was to invest in high quality preschool.  From this recommendation, Pre-K 4 SA was developed.

In November 2012, tax levy was approved by voters to support Pre-K 4 SA and the first two centers opened in August 2013.

Communications, along with building and maintaining community support, is a focus of Pre-K 4 SA’s ongoing success. Other key factors in their success include: Intentional partnerships with multi-sector, collaborative structures; focus on family engagement and support; and Using data-driven practices, policies and strategies to inform their work.

Putting It Together

For cities to thrive, they need to work for all its members, from the very beginning of all of life’s stages. Investments in early childhood education benefits communities for all generations. Children that have access to high-quality early learning experiences are more likely to succeed in school and reach their potential at each stage of life.

To learn more about how San Antonio is supporting its young children and families attend the NLC City Summit mobile workshop, Innovation in Education: Municipal PreK and Library Public/Private Partnership.

To learn more about NLC’s Early Childhood Success program, contact Jammie Albert at and Nancy Zuech Lim at or visit the website at:

Nancy Lim small

About the Author: Nancy Zuech Lim is a program manager at NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families.




Jammie Albert small_0.jpgJammie Albert is a Program Manager, Early Childhood Success at the National League of Cities.