Indiana is getting millions of dollars in federal funding for early childhood education, and officials say it will help the state strategize to improve early learning programs and access.
Preschool and childcare providers apply for grants through the state’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) to improve their quality or grow their capacity, like through the state’s On My Way Pre-K program. The agency uses a combination of federal and state funds to offer those, but this new pool of funding – $6,895,336 total – won’t go directly to any family or provider.
Instead, FSSA’s director of early childhood and out of school learning, Nicole Norvell, says this new federal money will help the agency study systems for both preschool and high quality childcare.
“The federal funding is focused on children birth all the way through 5,” she says. “So pre-K definitely being a part of that, but the focus is not solely on pre-K like our capacity building grants are.”
Norvell says it’s a unique chance to better see how Indiana as a state prepares children for kindergarten. The goal she says, is to take a closer look Indiana’s needs, and figure out how to grow and sustain early learning programs long term.
“Hopefully what we learn through needs assessment and strategic planning process is ways that we can be more efficient with the funding that already comes into the state,” she says.
A needs assessment, more information sharing among providers, and strategic planning she says, will also go toward improving access for low-income families and those in rural areas, and growing the industry's workforce. According to a press release announcing the funding, more data will set the stage for expanding On My Way Pre-K, something Gov. Eric Holcomb hopes to accomplish in 2021.
The award amount is slightly lower than what was initially proposed in December, so Norvell says FSSA will submit a revised budget plan by February and receive funding after it receives approval.