Pilot pre-K enrollment to begin next month

Low-income families in five pilot counties could begin enrolling their children in state-funded preschool next month with classes starting in January, state officials said Wednesday.

In addition, organizations that want to provide preschool in those counties – Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh – can now apply to be part of the state’s newly named On My Way Pre-K program. The counties were chosen earlier this year to be the first to try state-funded preschool.

The program will award grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families, who can then use the money to attend the approved preschool of the parents’ choice.

“Beginning to enroll early learning providers in On My Way Pre-K marks a significant milestone in our mission to provide high-quality early education for lower-income students in Indiana,” said Melanie Brizzi, the state’s director of early childhood and out-of-school learning, in a prepared statement.

“We look forward to engaging as many programs as possible to help us open the doors to new learning opportunities for Hoosier children,” she said.

The state will accept provider applications throughout the pilot program. However, eligible early learning programs are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

The state plans to release information next week to let families know how they may apply to receive a grant. Approved families can then start choosing their providers on Dec. 15 and can enroll children to begin attending preschool in January.

In order to be an approved On My Way Pre-K program, providers must meet the following requirements:

– Community-based programs including Head Start, licensed centers, licensed family homes and registered ministries must be rated at Level 3 or Level 4 in the Paths to QUALITY program.

– Public schools, including charter schools must be rated Level 3 or Level 4 in Paths to QUALITY.

– Private or non-public schools must be accredited by a regional or national pre-K accrediting body recognized by the State Board of Education or Family and Social Services Administration.

The programs must also agree to participate in an evaluation of the pilot program, require minimum attendance by students receiving the preschool grant, and offer parent engagement activities throughout the year.

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