GUEST COLUMN: Marching toward On My Way to Pre-K funding

By LARRY PEJEAU, guest columnist

The research is very compelling.

Children who participate in high-quality preschool programs have improved health and higher social-emotional and learning outcomes than those who do not participate.

Preschool participation is good for our children, our schools and our community.

Funding for early learning programs in Indiana has historically been a challenge for many families. State funding for pre-K education, while being slowly implemented across the state, is still available in only a limited number of counties.

In 2013, Brown County Schools reconfigured its three elementary schools and established preschool classrooms. Brown County Schools formed a partnership with the Brown County Community Foundation in 2015 to achieve two important goals.

First, a scholarship program was established to bring high-quality preschool education to children from families with identified financial needs. This scholarship program has been funded by the BCCF for the last three school years.

Second, the BCCF supported Brown County Schools in their efforts to achieve Level 3 Paths to Quality certification. This certification is a requirement to be eligible to receive the state’s “On My Way to Pre-K” expansion funding.

In 2017, Brown County Schools was awarded a $100,000 grant by Early Learning Indiana to support this certification effort through facilities improvements and enhanced curriculum.

By March of 2018, BCS preschools will meet multiple benchmarks to achieve Level 3 Paths to Quality certification.

By the fall of 2018, BCS preschools will be qualified to take Child Care Development Fund vouchers from income-eligible families.

By the spring of 2019, BCS will be eligible to seek “On My Way to Pre-K” state funding so that all children can attend preschool in their neighborhood elementary school regardless of their ability to pay.

Until that time, many of our children will need the community’s ongoing tuition support.

Data already collected from the first three years of this program shows that preschool does make a difference in the academic and social well-being of our kindergarten children.

We congratulate Brown County Schools for their diligent and focused efforts on growing a quality pre-K program and on their success in implementing the requirements necessary to qualify for state funding.

We are also thrilled to announce that one of our strong community partners, the Smithville Charitable Foundation, has awarded the BCCF a grant of $46,872 to guarantee pre-K funding through the spring of 2019. Our youngest scholars will continue to benefit from community funding to participate in a quality preschool program until BCS is ready to submit an application to be part of the state’s “On My Way to Pre-K” funding program.

The Brown County community has been the beneficiary of funding from the Smithville Charitable Foundation since 2008. Grants from the Smithville Charitable Foundation channeled through the Brown County Community Foundation have supported the Brown County Career Resource Center, the Brown County Playhouse, the Brown County Literacy Coalition, the Brown County Community Foundation, the Brown County YMCA and Brown County Schools. Since 2013, the Smithville Charitable Foundation has supported Brown County with over $187,000 in grants.

We are blessed to have charitable partners like the Smithville Charitable Foundation as we work collaboratively for positive change in the Brown County community by building on the spirit of philanthropy.

Larry Pejeau is the CEO of the Brown County Community Foundation.