Photo: Carrie Bale, Executive Director of BY5, courtesy of United Way of Delaware County
BY5 Works to Depoliticize and Expand Early Childhood Learning Statewide
by Carrie Bale
One issue in which Indiana’s gubernatorial candidates found common ground during the election of 2016 was of critical importance to Muncie’s future: Education. On the table was the topic of pre-Kindergarten and how access to high-quality pre-K programs can set our children up for success in school and beyond.
There’s agreement across the aisle that opportunities for happy, healthy lives begin at birth and continues in high-quality pre-K programs. While our local and state Republican and Democrat might disagree on approaches to expanding access to early learning, one thing is clear: Pre-K is an idea whose time has come, and our state legislators should make every effort to support the momentum building for it in Muncie and communities across Indiana.
The benefits of pre-K are well-documented. We know the most important development in a child’s brain occurs before age 5, and pre-K enables educators to reach children at this critical stage in life. Children who attend pre-K are much more likely to enter elementary school pre-pared to learn. Their success translates into short- and long-term positive outcomes for Muncie families as well as progress for Delaware County and the whole state.
That’s why 7 out of 10 Hoosier voters support a bold expansion of pre-K to many more low-income families in the next legislative session, according to a representative statewide poll. And through an effort called All IN 4 Pre-K, communities all over the state are voicing their desire for pre-K programs that help children build much-needed skills.
This groundswell of support is driven in part by the fact that thousands of Hoosier children still lack access to quality pre-K pro-grams or remain on waiting lists for the limited number of quality slots available. In Delaware County, close to 50% of children have no opportunity to participate in a high-quality preschool experience.
Many of these families are considered ALICE (asset-limited, in-come-constrained). While more of our state policymakers, including State Sen. Doug Eckerty. State Senator Tim Lanane and State Representative Sue Errington, have acted to increase access to high-quality pre-K, much more is needed. Fortunately, many of our state leaders on both sides of the aisle have signaled their willing-ness to tackle this important issue, and we look forward to seeing them work together to create a locally-driven pre-K solution that gives families a choice, empowers parents with responsibility, and upholds Hoosier values.
Indiana legislators should support a proposal to provide scholar-ships and grants to enable many more 4-year-old children from low-income families to attend high-quality pre-K programs. Whether at high-quality centers, schools, faith-based organizations, or home care businesses, pre-K leads to stronger Kindergarten readiness, less grade retention, and a significant return on investment to Indiana’s economy.
If the statements made by Indiana’s gubernatorial campaigns are any indication, Indiana has the political will to expand pre-K in the next legislative session. As our lawmakers craft a budget that builds on the tremendous gains we’ve made in education, investing in pre-K should be a top priority. The time is now to make a significant down payment that will ensure Indiana’s next generation of leaders have the chance to flourish in school and in life.
BY5 reports there are 3 preschool programs to open in 2017; Storer Elementary and Grissom Elementary will each have preschool classrooms with 20 slots available. Storer’s will be fee-based, but on a sliding scale with no one paying more than $50; this pre-school site still has open slots available. Both these pre-schools will open on January 17.
Grissom’s preschool is free and accepts children from these school districts: Grissom, Sutton, East Washington Academy and Longfellow. This preschool is currently full but is maintaining a wait list. The wait list is importance, because it demonstrates high demand in the community for quality pre-K education.
The Ross Center preschool will open on February 1. It will be a preschool co-op, but due to building restrictions it will not be able to be formally on Paths to Quality. However, the curriculum will still be a high quality curriculum.
For questions, contact Carrie at 765-216-7423 or Huffer Childcare Resource and Referral (for Ross Preschool) at 765-284-0887.
Carrie Bale is a MAP board member and Executive Director of Muncie’s BY5 Early Childhood Initiative.
Learn about Indiana’s pre-K efforts at www.allin4prek.com