High-Quality Preschool Expansion Exceeds Expectations

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Deonna Kirkpatrick, (216) 978-1926; deonna.kirkpatrick@jfs.ohio.gov

CLEVELAND – Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish today announced the launch of 2,600 new high-quality preschool slots for children, more than fulfilling a 2016 pledge to significantly expand the county’s successful and award-winning Universal Pre-Kindergarten program.

“It is my goal to give all of our children a great start in life, with a high-quality pre-kindergarten education,” said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “Cuyahoga County must be a place where our children start school ready to learn. A child’s zip code should not determine how far he or she will go in life. Today I am proud to say that we exceeded our goal by more than doubling the number of children in high-quality pre-kindergarten, from 2,000 to more than 4,600. This is a big deal, a major leap forward for our community.”

Universal Pre-K is a transformational priority to improve the quality of life and future of our community. The County administration requested and the County Council approved $10 million in new public dollars to fund the expansion with the goal of raising matching funds from private and philanthropic organizations in a public/private partnership. The fundraising effort led by County Executive Armond Budish and Paul Clark of PNC Bank, who also is co-chair of Invest in Children’s UPK Partnership Committee, was a great success, raising an additional $12.8 million. Invest in Children is Cuyahoga County’s public/private partnership to mobilize resources and energy to ensure the well-being of all young children in the county.

With the start of the 2017-2018 school year, the expansion is now in place and is even bigger than initially planned. The expansion effort originally called for the addition of 2,000 new high-quality preschool slots. With the success of the fundraising effort, and the addition of 37 new preschool sites, the number of newly available spots has surpassed 2,600.

“We are thrilled with the early progress that’s been made with the preschool expansion efforts in Cuyahoga County,” said Paul Clark, PNC regional president of Cleveland. “Our community has really come together to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn and grow in a high-quality preschool environment.”

The program is undergoing other enhancements as well that are based on evaluation results, the experience of current UPK providers, and best practices from programs across the country. For instance, families under 200 percent of the federal poverty level will now receive tuition assistance equaling half the annual fee to attend preschool, up from one-third.

Invest in Children is the lead agency for this nationally recognized Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program. The program is based on three enduring goals:
  • Creating a new gold standard of high-quality preschool in our community
  • Making this very high-quality experience accessible to low- and moderate-income families
  • Improving school readiness among disadvantaged children

Two independent UPK evaluations have documented its positive impact on school readiness. Children who entered CMSD from UPK sites scored an average of three points higher on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment for Literacy, which translates into a 36 percent greater chance of passing the Third Grade Reading Assessment. In addition, results from the Bracken School Readiness Assessment administered at the beginning and end of the school year documented that the most disadvantaged children made the largest gains in skills--a finding mirrored in other UPK programs across the country.

“The expansion of UPK is a critical step towards increasing kindergarten readiness in Cuyahoga County, and is especially important in Cleveland where we have set a goal of every 3- and 4-year-old child having access to high-quality preschool,” said Eric Gordon, CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. “We know UPK produces great results for children, and we are thrilled that eighteen new preschool sites were selected in Cleveland as part of the expansion.”

“There exists over 30 years of data that prove investing in high quality early care and education pays dividends for the individual child, their family, and society as a whole that far exceed the cost,” said Rebekah Dorman, Director of Invest in Children.

The launch of these newly available high-quality preschool slots, and the other program enhancements being put in place, are a significant step in the realization of this vision.