Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio Department of Education this week awarded additional funding that will allow more than 2,400 children to attend high-quality preschool programs. The additional $10 million funding is awarded to 145 preschool programs at 80 school districts in the state of Ohio — including New Boston and Portsmouth schools in Scioto County.
Governor John Kasich introduced his budget House Bill 59 in February and in June it was made into law. Included in the bill was funding for an additional $10 million to the early childhood education program for Fiscal Year 2014. Kasich said the money will be distributed through Early Childhood Education Expansion Grants targeted to preschool programs that are already high quality and are located in high-needs areas of the state.
“This program is providing funds for an additional 2,450 children to attend high-quality preschools where they will get the education and care they need to become well-prepared for kindergarten,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Richard A. Ross said. “We know in Ohio that if children are behind when they start school, it’s more likely they they will struggle academically in later grades. It’s critical that we prepare every young child for success in school.”
New Boston Superintendent Mike Staggs said theirs was the first public school’s preschool program in Scioto County when it began in 2008. Now the program is maxed-out with 40 students, but thanks to an additional $32,000 from the program, New Boston will be able to enroll eight more students.
“We don’t have eight kids on the waiting list. I think we have three or four, so we would accept more kids. And if there are people that want their kid in this year, I would encourage them to apply,” Staggs said. “Originally Gov. (Ted) Strickland is the guy who created this program, and we were fully funded. With the economic downturn they cut. We had 40 kids and they actually paid us for 30, so the district had to pick up a fourth of the funding. Which we would do no matter what. We think it’s that important. It is a priority in our district.”
Portsmouth already has about 50 students enrolled in its preschool program. Now the district will receive an additional $64,000 from the program to enroll 16 more students. Portsmouth City School Treasurer Dianna Reedy said preschool was an area where the district really wanted to expand.
“With the budget restraints, we just really couldn’t do it. So we were excited when we seen this opportunity get this grant,” Reedy said. “Right now we’re just in the budget and enrollment process of this grant. We’ve just been sending letters home and posting some stuff on the website trying to fill these spots.”
The largest amount awarded by the expansion program was $628,000, which goes to Akron City Schools in Summitt County. Kasich said these programs will be monitored during the school year through Step Up To Quality, Ohio’s quality rating and improvement system.
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.