By Carrie Bale – Executive Director, BY5 Early Childhood Initiative—
Muncie, IN—Important legislation that will help with future economic development potential for the State of Indiana was passed in April 2017. You may be thinking about another workforce initiative, or the funding for roads and bridges? Yes, those will provide some return on investment about 3% on average (according to Dr. Tim Bartik’s from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, recent presentation for the 2nd annual Indiana Summit for Economic Development via Early Learning Coalitions June 2017 in Bloomington, Indiana), but the legislation I am talking about is the increased investment in Pre-K for 4 year old children from low income families.
An investment that has been shown to provide a return of 4-7% for every dollar invested in Indiana (Economic Impacts of Investing in Early Childhood Education in Indiana, 2016.) Those are the types of economic development initiatives that will enable East Central Indiana to have the talented workforce we will need to drive our economy forward.
We are pleased to announce that Delaware County has be selected as one of the new 15 counties that the “On My Way Pre-K” will expand into starting this August. BY5 submitted the request for information as the lead respondent for Delaware County, and we were notified in June that our county is indeed ready to expand the existing state funded Pre-K efforts next phase. On Wednesday this week, a team of 7 community stakeholders will be joining BY5 with 4 other counties for our kickoff meeting and to begin the planning phase for implementation.
Our challenge will be recruitment efforts — to find the 4 year olds and their families that meet the eligibility requirements for participation. Children must be going to Kindergarten in the fall of 2018 and their parent(s) need to be working or going to school (or a part of an approved job training program) and meet income guidelines at or below 127% federal poverty level. Efforts are already underway to plan to have targeted recruitment efforts and it will take the whole community to help us find the children and families who qualify.
Although the state said that this program was for working families, we will try in our community to partner with some existing workforce initiatives to see if we can’t help find families employment, if we can offer FREE high quality Pre-K, which would also provide a potential boost to our current labor supply. We have 4 High Quality Programs who can currently take children and more will role out on in January 2018. If you want to see if someone you know qualifies have them call Huffer/CCR&R at 765-284-0887. To help spread the word and find out if families are eligible BY5 will be hosting a FREE Family swim event at Tuhey Pool on August 6 from 3-6 pm.
With the help of large scale community planning conducted 4 years ago, BY5 has been working hard with numerous community partners to implement multiple strategies that have been identified as critical to the success of our youngest citizens and to the success of this community. Increasing access to high quality preschool opportunities is just one of those 25 strategies and we are proud and excited to be a part of the expansion efforts, but we have many more things that we are working on as well.
In development is a “BY5 Little Learners Passport” that has 100 things to do with your child before they go to Kindergarten. Our BY5 Family Navigator network is growing and helping to identify crucial gaps for families, and our new venture with the Daleville Police Department and the “Book Patrol” program, where police officers will have books and bookmarks to give to children throughout the day. All of this takes time, commitment, funding and relationships to build and grow. We are so grateful that our community sees the new Pre-K expansion efforts as another “piece to the wheel” as we continue to work to build the strongest foundation possible for the future of our community, by investing in human capital now.