The state-funded preschool pilot program that began with five counties was expanded during the 2017 legislative session for 15 more counties. Now, parents in 10 of those counties can apply for half-year preschool.
But all low-income families applying will also have to comply with a new program requirement.
A state grant would pay for half or full day preschool for a 4-year-old child beginning next January.
New this year to the state program is a work requirement. Parents or guardians must be working or attending school or an accredited training program. When the requirement was announced in June, Carrie Bale with the By5 Early Childhood Initiative said it would be barrier for some families in the area.
“In the first round three years ago, it was an income qualifier – and that was the only qualifier,” Bale says. “With this new round coming out, it’s an income qualifier of 127 percent of poverty, plus the parents have to be working or going to school. That’s going to be our challenge.”
If a family receives a state-funded grant, it can send a child to any preschool provider on a state-approved list that offers half-day or full-day classes. An online map on the state’s website shows 10 provider locations in Delaware County and three in Madison County.
The five other counties in the 2018 program will take applications later to begin sessions in the 2018-2019 school year.
Child advocacy groups had sought $50 million in funding during the last legislative session to expand the pre-K program statewide. Instead, lawmakers doubled the funding to $20 million and added 20 counties to the program’s initial five county reach.
According to numbers from the Family and Social Services Administration, about 6,700 4-year-olds in the new 15 counties will be eligible for the pre-K benefits.