Ohio

Eye on Education

Cleveland Push for Universal Preschool Goes Beyond the School District

A child graduates from preschool.

Ken Colwell / Flickr

A child graduates from preschool.

Think you know the best way to design preschool programs for Cleveland kids?

Your ideas are welcome for the task force of school, city, and business leaders trying to expand access to preschool programs around Cleveland.

Their work stems from an element of the Cleveland Plan, the broad strategy Cleveland Schools officials developed to boost academic achievement.

But their efforts are not limited to just adding more preschool classrooms in the school district.

“We are trying to identify the best strategies for expanding the number of kids who are accessing high quality pre–k programs in Cleveland,” says Marcia Egbert, a senior program officer with the Gund Foundation and co-chair of the task force.

Egbert says there’s no shortage of existing preschool programs.  A recent study by Case Western Reserve University identified more than 700 licensed and registered early learning programs at day cares and learning centers across the city.  But not all of them are high quality, Egbert notes.

“The world of early childhood education is a mixed market delivery system,” Egbert says.  The goal of the task force is to identify the good ones, and make sure there are enough spots for families who want them.

Cleveland joins a number of cities in Ohio and around the country pushing for universal preschool access.  President Obama has also called for states to fund more preschool programs.   But getting Congress to fund his push has been another hurdle.  In their latest spending plan unveiled this week, Congress boosted money for Head Start, but didn’t provide the $750 million in new grants Obama sought to help states expand their preschool programs.

Egbert says she thinks there are a variety of funding sources the Cleveland task force can seek for their efforts—federal, state, and local dollars exist—but it’s a matter of pooling together those resources. Egbert says the task force hopes to figure out how much money they’ll need by the end of February.

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