Early Learning Indiana will open a new preschool this fall initially serving up to 80 students, creating more options for parents using On My Way Pre-K and Indianapolis Preschool Scholarship Program scholarships.
The new program will be a Level 3 on the Paths to QUALITY ranking system, which qualifies it for the state- and city-run voucher programs.
The center will be run through Eastern Star Church on the city’s East side, a high need area for pre-k. Currently there are only 10 providers who qualify for the state and city programs, meaning low-income families in the area have few affordable options for high quality preschool.
Jason Kloth oversees the mayor’s pre-k program and says getting more options for families in this area will help widen the reach of these programs.
“In parts of the East side there are higher concentrations of families and children who are living in poverty and who would be, in the absence of the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program, unable to afford the cost of a high quality program, which is why there are fewer options located there,” Kloth says.
Kloth says the overall goals of On My Way Pre-K and the mayor’s program are to improve the communities where they educate students, and the current lack of options on Indianapolis’ East side take that opportunity away from children who live there.
“Our hope is that having access to this type of program through this innovative partnership with Early Learning Indiana it will mean students are coming to school ready to learn and more likely over the long term be employed, and less likely to be involved in the criminal justice system,” Kloth says.
Ted Maple, CEO of Early Learning Indiana, says his organization chose the East side to open its new center because of demand created through the two scholarship programs.
“ was one of the highest zip codes in terms of number of applications received,” Maple says. “Two hundred eighty-four applications just from that zip code alone. The one adjacent to that, 46226, 365 applications came from that. So those two zip codes came in first and third in terms of most number of applications for pre-k.”
Maple says the center will have 80 available spots this year, but hopes to increase that capacity to 100 spots next year, and eventually up it to 180.
On My Way Pre-K is currently underway in four counties and will launch to full capacity in five starting this fall. The program offers scholarships to low-income families of four-year-olds to send their child to a high quality program so they are prepared for kindergarten. The Indianapolis program, based out of the mayor’s office, operates in almost the same way except it also includes three-year-olds.