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Michelle Davies/The Journal Gazette
Jenny Sanders, a teacher at Whitney Young Early Childhood Center, shows a puffer fish to pre=kindergarten students Liam Guypson, Payton Roberts and Choyce Davis in this May file photo. Allen County was selected today as one of five Indiana counties to be part of a state-supported pre-k pilot program. State and matching private grant money will be used to provide vouchers to families whose household incomes are at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level, United Way of Allen County said today.

Allen picked for pre-kindergarten pilot program

Kosciusko, Noble not selected

INDIANAPOLIS - Allen County is one of five tapped Tuesday to be part of a state-supported pre-kindergarten pilot program.

Allen, Lake, Vanderburgh, Marion and Jackson counties were chosen by the Family and Social Services Administration. Kosciusko and Noble counties applied but were not chosen.

The program funds services delivered via accredited private schools, public schools and community-based early education providers achieving certain certifications.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” Gov. Mike Pence said. “Today, I am pleased to accept the recommendations of our working group. The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

Lawmakers approved a bill this year creating a five-county pilot pre-K program pushed by Pence. The law -- and the money that funds the pilot -- became effective July 1.

The FSSA still has to create a longitudinal study for students, monitor the design and implementation of a new kindergarten readiness assessment and the program accountability system, establish guidelines and activation of fundraising activities, and make modifications to interagency IT and staffing infrastructure to support the pilot program.

FSSA said last month the expected full launch is July 2015, though Pence is pushing for a possible early launch in January.

Tuesday's announcement said "the program remains on track to launch in early 2015."

Under the law, the FSSA will create and run the program using up to $10 million in reversions from its existing budget.

Private donations totaling $1 million to $5 million are also required.

Children in homes with income up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level - or about $30,000 for a family of four - would be eligible for pre-kindergarten grants of $2,500 to $6,800 per student.

The number of children to be served depends on the funding raised, but is expected to be between 1,000 and 4,000.

For more on this story, visit later today or see Wednesday's print edition of The Journal Gazette.