Governor Pence announced Tuesday the five counties selected to participate in the state’s new pre-k pilot program, so over the next year Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties will recruit families, create capacity in existing preschool providers and secure private funding for the voucher-like program.
These five counties, as well as the 13 other finalists, submitted statements of readiness which outlined the need for state-funded pre-k in their area, as well as available resources and support if chosen for the program. These documents outlined the number of students who would qualify for the program, community engagement in early education, family engagement, provider capacity and a timeline of how they will make the program a reality.
Here at StateImpact we read documents so you don’t have to, so let’s take a look at each county’s plan to implement the program and what qualified them to be part of the pilot.
As one of the urban counties chosen to participate in the pilot, Allen County has both the need for more preschool spots and the support of community organizations to fund and implement it.
According to their statement of readiness, 240-440 four-year-olds living in poverty in Allen County will receive funding to attend high-quality preschool in the area.
A slew of programs throughout the county already exist that help low-income parents and the community engage with students starting from birth.
A partnership with Fort Wayne Community School Corporation, East Allen County Schools and the United Way of Allen County will begin a Kindergarten Countdown this summer, which enrolls students about to enter kindergarten. The program assists children who didn’t attend preschool, getting them up to speed with literacy as well as social skills before starting kindergarten full time in the fall.
As the only rural area participating in the pilot program, Jackson County hopes to provide 255 children with a spot in a high-quality preschool program.
Being a smaller county means the current marketing efforts to promote early childhood education are very grassroots, with local organizations like the Jackson County Education Coalition visiting local restaurants, trailer parks and community events to provide parents with information.
Currently there are only three providers in Jackson County that meet the qualifications to participate in the program, but the JCEC committed to funding current Level 1 home daycare providers if they get their ranking up to Level 3 or 4 and can make room for children under the pilot program.
With a 31 percent poverty rate among children in Lake County – home to Gary, Hammond and Merrillville – the county has a high need for affordable pre-k. With funding from the pilot, Lake County expects to enroll 400 students into preschool .
To complement the work done during the school day, a variety of community programs exist to help families and preschool students succeed. One of those includes the REAL Fathers Initiative, which helps fathers who don’t have custody of their kids stay involved in their lives.
Enrollment for a bulk of the children will begin in January 2015 and finish in July.
Being one of the largest urban areas in the state, Marion County’s population of low-income children not attending preschool is around 6,000. There are also around 137 providers that can participate in the program, with capacity for around 770 new students.
A major component of the success of the program is being able to raise money from private donors to match the Family and Social Service Administrations contribution. Marion County’s statement of readiness says they already receive more than $5 million in annual grant funding for early education that helps pay for low-income children to get a quality preschool education. With increased funding more children can enroll in the program.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office also plans to launch a Pre-K locator website to make finding information on preschools easier.
The 64 eligible preschool providers in Vanderburgh County, home to Evansville, estimate they can serve around 150 new students through funding from the pilot program. One of those providers, the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, is trying to secure a Paths to QUALITY ranking to expand their current program that already serves hundreds of students under Title 1 funding.
By drawing from current waiting lists at area preschools, leaders in Vanderburgh County anticipate a large portion of students to be served under the pilot can start in January 2015 with the rest starting next July.