School is already in session for a group of kindergarteners in Fort Wayne. From Journal Gazette reporter Sarah Janssen:
The class of kindergartners has started school four weeks earlier than the school’s other students as part of a United Way initiative aiming to better prepare students for their first year of school.
“Nearly half of kids in our community start school unprepared to learn, with one-fourth of children needing intensive help to catch up,” said Todd Stephenson, president and CEO of United Way of Allen County.
The students were targeted by the schools because they had little or no early childhood education or are students who will learn English as a second language. The program, called Kindergarten Countdown, has one classroom at Southwick along with two at Fairfield Elementary and one at Adams Elementary. All three schools serve mostly minority students with more than 90 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches.
The program is funded by the United Way and provided at no cost to the parents of the nearly 60 children participating. …
Kindergarten Countdown provides social and emotional adjustment time for kids and their parents. Students are also taught skills in literacy and language development.
We wrote about a United Way camp in Avon last summer that also targets students already testing behind their peers before school ever starts.
“They’ve maybe never picked up a pencil or they’ve never colored with a crayon or never had someone read a book to them,” kindergarten teacher Janet Craig told StateImpact.
Efforts to launch a small-scale preschool pilot program stalled in the General Assembly this session over concerns the per-pupil funding amount was too high. Instead, state lawmakers passed a bill beefing up a ratings system for childcare providers.
“The pilot wouldn’t be too expensive, but the objective there is that it probably would work out and they’d want to come back and fully fund that, which could be $150 million a year, which would be a lot of money,” Senate Education Committee chairman Dennis Kruse told StateImpact.
Kruse says he thinks the legislature would be more likely to allocate funding for preschool in the 2015 budget session.
For his part, Gov. Mike Pence has said he’d like to see more private companies partner with local school districts to provide low-income families with affordable preschool options. But a program in Columbus that did just that had to scale back after voters rejected a referendum to expand access to early childhood education in Bartholomew County.