INDIANAPOLIS – The state has named 18 counties as finalists for a new pre-kindergarten pilot program that will launch next July.
Those counties will now be invited to submit proposals describing their fund raising efforts, community engagement, provider participation and other measures that the Family and Social Services Administration will use to select five counties to implement the program.
The program will provide funding for pre-kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds. The state will then study the results so lawmakers can decide whether to expand the program statewide.
“We’re on track and working to design a program that will be successful and will help the children who participate in it be successful as well,” said Debra Minot, secretary of Family and Social Services Administration. “We look forward to partnering with the counties to assess their readiness and implement a strong program.”
FSSA plans to select five counties in July from among the following: Allen, Bartholomew, Delaware, Elkhart, Grant, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Noble, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh, Vigo and Wayne.
When implemented next year, the program will be available to 4-year-olds from families with incomes no higher than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s a maximum income of $30,290.
Services will be delivered by public schools, accredited private schools, and providers who have achieved Level 3 or Level 4 status in the state’s voluntary child care quality rating and improvement system.
The state will spend $10 million on the program and providers will kick in another $1 million to $5 million in privately raised matching funds. The per-child grants will range between $2,500 and $6,800 and will go directly to families, which will choose the provider in their counties.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said that could cause some problems. The state will need to esnure that families use the grants within the designated counties, especially if they move frequently.
That’s “a pretty large challenge,” Ritz said.
FSSA officials said that in narrowing down the list of eligible counties to 18, the agency worked with an advisory work group to examine more than a dozen “objective measures of suitability,” including the estimated number of children not currently receiving early learning services, the number of eligible providers, and the
FSSA will host two webinars to explain the application and selection process to interested parties in each county. The first webinar is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on June 12. A second webinar will be held a week before the final submissions are due to address any last-minute questions or concerns.