Local News

Allen County Among those Selected for Pre-K Pilot Program

INDIANAPOLIS (WOWO):A new pilot program for Pre-K students will launch next year in five Indiana Counties. One of those is Allen. 

Governor Mike Pence announced today Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties will test the program before the state adopts the program in all 92 counties.

The counties were selected by the state's Family and Social Services Adminstration based on need and the county's ability and readiness to meet those needs.

According to United Way of Allen County, they were among the 15 local organizations to spearhead local efforts.  Officials with the agency say nearly 1,500 underserved four-year-olds in Allen County could benefit from the pre-school pilot program.

“The broad participation and expertise represented in the county submissions demonstrates not only the success of the county selection approach, which was specifically designed to encourage collaboration, but also the high level of interest in early learning across the state,” said Melanie Brizzi, Director of FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning.

The program remains on track to launch in early 2015.

From United Way of Allen County

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.

“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.

From a Governor's Office Press Release:

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Governor Pence. “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.”

Last month, the Indiana Family Social Services Administration (FSSA) announced the 18 counties which were selected as finalists and gave each the opportunity to submit a statement to FSSA detailing their readiness to participate in the pilot. Each county submitted a statement for consideration by June 30. The statements reflected input from more than 100 respondents, including nonprofits, businesses and business leaders, school corporations, private providers, colleges and universities, and representatives of local government.

The final five counties were selected by FSSA with the assistance of a group of objective evaluators representing academia, nonprofit and business interests. The advisory group, composed of early education experts, included academic researchers from Ball State, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana University; staff representatives from FSSA, the State Budget Agency, the Indiana Department of Education and the Center for Education and Career Innovation; members of the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC); and external organizations including the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance and the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children.

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