Eighteen counties, including Allen County, are being considered for the state-funded pre-k pilot program. The state legislature approved the program earlier this year and the Family and Social Services Administration announced the finalists today. Just five of those counties that will be chosen to participate in the pilot program.
The Education Learning Advisory Committee and the FSSA chose the 18 counties based largely on the mix of urban and rural areas within the county. Officials say counties that have a more diverse rural and urban population will be able to better prove how effective the program is in all types of environments.
The counties have until June 30 to submit proposals explaining why they should be chosen as one of the five counties to host the pre-k pilot program. Any group within the counties, including educators, parents, government officials, or a coalition of interested parties can submit the proposal.
FSSA Bureau of Child Care Director Melanie Brizzi says the proposals should go beyond basic statistics to give the FSSA a sense of what education is like in that specific county.
“Tell us about your past commitment to early education," Brizzi says, "tell us what else is going on in your county, tell us what your plan is for participating in fundraising activities or parental engagement.”
Lake County, which includes Gary, is one of the finalists. State Board of Education member Tony Walker represents that region and says he’s ecstatic it has the opportunity to provide preschool for the large percent of its population that lives in poverty.
“We have too many kids coming into Kindergarten that do no read, many of them don’t know their ABCs yet," says Walker, "and I’ve heard from superintendents in my district that they spend up to third grade just trying to catch kids up to grade level.”
The final five counties will be chosen by July 2014 and the program is scheduled to launch by July 2015.