Cleveland is one of a handful of cities around the state trying to expand early childhood education for kids under five.
Last fall, city leaders teamed up with Cuyahoga County officials and two dozen local agencies to brainstorm ways to make high quality programs available for all kids in the area.
Now they say they have a strategy.
The plan is called PRE4CLE, and WCPN’s Nick Castele reports the goal is to enroll 2,000 more four-year-olds into preschool programs considered high quality.
The plan increases preschool class sizes, while adding teaching assistants to keep the student-to-teacher ratio down. It also includes teacher training to bump up the number of programs considered high quality.
Marcia Egbert with the Gund Foundation said two things standing in the way of enrolling in preschool now are distance and price.
“We know making options available both close to home or accessible by affordable and convenient transportation is an important barrier to overcome,” Egbert said. “Also, cost…while some options have no cost to the families, others do.”
Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon says with better pre-K enrollment in better programs, students will have improved chances at meeting the state’s third-grade reading standards.
“We know that we cannot remediate our way out of a challenge when instead we have to help our children arrive ready for kindergarten, the single goal of PRE4CLE,” Gordon said. “And so it is a critical driver in the Cleveland plan for transforming schools.”
The program starts this fall. It’s going to cost $15 million this upcoming school year, and $20 million the next. The funds will come from a mix of federal, state, county and city dollars. Egbert says about half the money is in place for the first year.
Even if PRE4CLE succeeds in the next few years, there will be thousands of preschool-age children in Cleveland still not enrolled in high-quality programs.