Research shows that the early years of a child’s life are among the most important when it comes to shaping that child’s future success in school and in life. As a child’s brain forms, it is critical to unlock his or her full potential by developing vital academic, social and cognitive skills.
President Barack Obama made providing comprehensive early learning opportunities to all children one of his top agenda items in his 2013 State of the Union address. In partnership with the states, the initiative sought to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds with access to high-quality preschool. It also encouraged the states to provide more options for middle-class families.
Gov. Mike Pence also made early education one of his top legislative priorities. From his original proposal, the General Assembly created a $10 million pilot program that will provide preschool funding for low-income 4-year-olds in five counties. Funded from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s budget, the program is open to families in those counties that earn up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level – a little less than $30,000 for a family of four.
Madison County is one of 18 counties vying for one of the five spots. Other finalists include Allen, Bartholomew, Delaware, Elkhart, Grant, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Lawrence, Marion, Noble, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh, Vigo and Wayne counties.
The FSSA says these counties were chosen as finalists by an advisory group because of their estimated number of children not currently going to preschool, the number of eligible preschool providers and the percentage of children living in poverty.
The counties now have until June 30 to submit a plan detailing their ability to help meet a financial match, participation of providers, possible community and family engagement and readiness to launch the program come the start of 2015.