United Way of Allen County issued this news release today:
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (July 21, 2014) – United Way of Allen County announced that Allen County is one of the five Indiana counties chosen to participate in the Preschool Pilot Program created by the 2014 Indiana General Assembly. The program will begin in 2015 and seeks to increase the number of Indiana children who enter kindergarten ready to learn. It provides up to $10 million in state funding for pre-kindergarten for low income 4-year-olds that must be matched by private funding of at least 10 percent. Services may be delivered via public schools, accredited private schools, and providers who have achieved Level 3 or Level 4 in Paths to QUALITY™, Indiana’s voluntary child care quality rating and improvement system. The other counties selected include Marion, Lake, Jackson and Vanderburgh.
United Way was selected by 15 community organizations to spearhead the Allen County effort. In addition to preparing a Statement of County Readiness, United Way secured $100,000 in matching funds. United Way and United Way’s Women United affinity group committed $50,000 with another $50,000 pledged from PNC’s Grow Up Great program. These funds were secured with the expectation of an additional $700,000 to $900,000 in matching funds being contributed if Allen County was selected for the pilot program. The pilot program is supported across Allen County by 30 collaborating organizations. It is estimated that currently 1,473 underserved four-year-old children in Allen County could benefit from the preschool pilot program.
“With so much work already being done in our community by us, our partner agencies and other local groups for early childhood education, pursuing this preschool pilot program grant was a natural conclusion,” said Todd Stephenson, President and CEO of United Way of Allen County. “Allen County is uniquely qualified to take full advantage of these dollars to not only help children prepare for kindergarten, but to also prepare them for a better life.”
State and matching private grant money will be used to provide Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) vouchers to families whose household incomes are at or below 127% of the Federal Poverty Level. Fort Wayne Community Schools and East Allen County Schools have expressed interest in increasing the number of pre-kindergarten classes they offer to meet the need, and CANI Head Start locations in Allen County will seek to create new summer pre-kindergarten programs. The school districts will need to first qualify as Level 3 or 4 providers. CANI Head Start sites are already Level 4. Additional child care providers that qualify as a level 3 or 4 Paths to QUALITY program, by the time the pilot program begins, may be used to fill additional need.
The goal is to fill current vacancies beginning in January 2015, followed by additional spaces opening up in June and August 2015. FSSA is continuing to devise a kindergarten readiness assessment and longitudinal study of the pilot to measure its effectiveness.