Local educators consider prekindergarten programs to be an essential part of a successful educational foundation.
However, they recognize that one obstacle to providing this level of education is affordability. If the cost is too great for a family, it is unlikely to consider preschool as an option for a child.
That’s an unfortunate reality.
Fortunately, state legislators also consider early education important.
More than 60 Columbus area students will receive free prekindergarten tuition next school year thanks to state grants that will be matched with local money. The grants are the result of 2013 legislation that earmarked $2 million statewide for two years, to expand high-quality education programs for 4-year-olds whose families are at or below 100 percent of the poverty level.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. will receive $170,075 from the state Bureau of Child Care — the maximum amount offered by the state — for 50 students at its Busy Bees Academy. The Community Education Coalition is matching the state grant.
Children Inc. is receiving $36,850 to add a class of 11 students. The United Way of Bartholomew County is matching that grant.
The matching grants by the Community Education Coalition and Children Inc. are significant because they are important pieces of a local push to help at-risk children get off to a successful start with their education.
Also under consideration:
Bartholomew County hopes to be part of a pilot voucher program in Indiana to help 4-year-olds from low-income families Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. will have a referendum question on the November ballot that asks taxpayers to fund prekindergarten for 4-year-olds on lunch assistance.
While it’s uncertain whether those efforts will be successful, what is certain is that 61 children will receive a prekindergarten education that otherwise would likely be unattainable.
That’s a priceless gift.