Applications Open Today in Program Providing Free Pre-K to Over 2,300 Children
Beginning today, families can apply to be a part of year two of the On My Way Pre-K program, Indiana’s first state-funded Pre-K program for low-income families. For the 2015-2016 school year there was an overwhelming response from families in the five pilot counties: Allen, Lake, Marion, Vanderburgh, and Jackson. A total of 2,255 Hoosier children received scholarships last summer to attend a high-quality Pre-K program in the 2015-2016 school year. As we enter the second year, local and state leaders anticipate even greater interest.
For families with children who will be four years old by August 1, 2016, the process begins with filling out an application, which is available as a paper copy or an online form. If applications exceed funding, a randomized lottery will be held in each county. Families chosen for the program are then invited to attend a meeting at their local intake agency to verify their personal information and to confirm their eligibility. When parents accept a grant they agree that their child will be in attendance at least 85% of the time, that they will participate in family engagement within their program, and that their child will continue onto a kindergarten program.
Many early childhood programs are eligible to become approved On My Way Pre-K providers. Public Schools, Head Starts, Licensed Centers, Registered Ministries, and Licensed Family Homes that are rated a Level 3 or 4 on Paths to Quality can be in the program. Private schools who want to participate must be regionally or nationally accredited. Any appropriately rated program is eligible, allowing families to pick the program that best fits their children’s needs. Over 200 early childhood education providers are approved On My Way Pre-K programs in the five counties, and that number continues to grow.
In each On My Way Pre-K county, supporting agencies are prepared up for the applications to be released to families. Any family who feels they may qualify for a grant can apply. Last year the state received over 6500 applications from the five pilot counties. All the counties are working hard on getting the word out to families about applying for On My Way Pre-K. Applications must be received by March 25, 2016.
“We are very excited about the upcoming enrollment.” Natasha Langford, the Pre-K Project Manager from Jackson County stated. “Locally, we held a ‘Happy NOON Year’s Eve’ event for children ages two to eight in our community, complete with games, prizes, snacks and a balloon drop. We utilized this event to engage families in the learning process, to provide fun activities, and share information about On My Way Pre-K.”
Each On My Way Pre-K community has an active group spreading the world about this opportunity, consisting of local child care providers, agencies, and community partners. Langford also added, “Our pre-K committee meets regularly to plan for enrollment, capacity building and fundraising while focusing on moving the needle forward in early education.”
With the amount of interest that the first year brought there is some relief that the program has been approved for two more years. Families and programs have seen several positive results from On My Way Pre-K. Cynthia James, who manages the On My Way Pre-K work at Christamore House in Marion County, has been very pleased with the progress her children are making.
“Children are growing in leaps and bounds,” James said. “We are truly looking forward to the future.”
To find out more about On My Way Pre-K please go to the program website: www.onmywayprek.org
Marla Segal is Early Learning Indiana’s Pre-K Project Manager. In her twelve years with Early Learning Indiana, she also worked as a teacher, office manager, assistant director and director in our centers.