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United Way awards grants to increase low-income children in high-quality Pre-K programs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.  - The United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) is getting more children into a quality preschool program.

It's awarding capacity-building grants totaling $269,511 to 12 early learning providers in central Indiana and will serve an additional 160 children in Marion County from low-income families.

The grants, which are part of the Indy Preschool Scholarship Program, will go to programs in seven areas with significant need for pre-K.

The investments are made possible by gifts from 20 central Indiana companies – including many who championed expanding access to high-quality pre-K during the 2017 Indiana legislative session, which ended with lawmakers expanding state funding for preschool to $22 million.

“Early education providers rarely have the resources to significantly grow the number of children they serve,” said Ann D. Murtlow, president and CEO, United Way of Central Indiana. “This round of capacity-building grants will help bring high-quality pre-K programs to scale in targeted communities where there is robust unserved demand. We applaud the generosity of the Central Indiana business community. The grants announced today are a perfect example of the role that business and philanthropy can – and should – play in expanding quality pre-K in Indiana.”

The nearly $270,000 investment is part of a more than $1.2 million total investment in capacity-building over the last two years. It's put more than 1,300 children into high-quality preschool programs. It’s also a key component of UWCI’s Early Childhood 10 Year Plan, which aims for 80 percent of Central Indiana early education providers to be high-quality — as reflected by a Level 3 or Level 4 designation on Indiana’s PATHS to Quality rating system— by 2020. Today, 37 percent of Central Indiana pre-K providers are considered high-quality.

Level 3 programs are preschools that get a child prepared for kindergarten and level 4 is designated for programs that have earned a national accreditation.

The 12 grantees chosen for this round of funding were selected based on their proximity to high-poverty neighborhoods with limited existing quality pre-K options. In the seven high-need ZIP areas where capacity-building grantees are located, on average nearly half of children ages 0-6 live in poverty.

This round of capacity-building grantees — and their company sponsors — include:

  1. The Villages Early Childhood Center, supported by Duke Realty
  2. The Oaks Academy, supported by Community Health
  3. East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center, supported by Cummins
  4. Warren Early Childhood Center, supported by Citizens Energy Group
  5. Daystar Child Care Center, supported by Cummins
  6. Children's Cottage, supported by Gene B. Glick Company and One America
  7. Day Early Learning at Eastern Star Church, supported by Gene B. Glick Company and Duke Realty
  8. Turning Point (TP) Kiddie Academy, supported by Emmis Communications
  9. Intelligent Minds Child Development Center, supported by Gene B. Glick Company and Walker Information
  10. High School Road KinderCare, supported by Langham Logistics
  11. Flanner House Child and Youth Development Center, supported by Emmis Communications
  12. St. Mary's Child Center, supported by Gene B. Glick Company

“We have seen the transformative effect that pre-K has on children, families and the community at large,” said Elisa Wethington, preschool coordinator and coach, East Tenth United Methodist Children and Youth Center. “We’re grateful for this grant from UWCI and its partners in the business community because it allows us to open our doors to more children who stand to gain from pre-K’s many academic, social and emotional benefits. This funding also enables us to focus on doing what we do best –providing an exceptional first learning experience for kids who need it most.”

“Cummins is very pleased that two of our eastside partners, Daystar Child Care Center and East 10th United Methodist Children and Youth Center, received capacity building grants to provide additional pre-k opportunities,” said Mary Titsworth Chandler, Vice President Community Relations and Corporate Responsibility, Cummins Inc. “Our state has worked hard to grow the number of quality providers, which has nearly doubled in the last five years, but we have still much more work to do. That’s why growing the number of children who can access high-quality pre-K is at the front and center of our ongoing efforts to expand opportunity for Central Indiana students. Increased high-quality pre-K access can help our youth flourish and create a stronger, more economically and socially vibrant state for generations to come.

At Flanner House, enrollment is up 80 percent in the past couple years and much of it, according to the program's executive director, is due to the scholarship program.

"Research shows us that 85 percent of everything a child will learn in their life they get by the time they are 5 year olds," said Brandon Cosby, who has run the Flanner House for the last 18 months.

Many times, families can't simply afford a high-quality preschool education, but sometimes the issue is there aren't high-quality options nearby. The scholarship program is changing that.

“Folks may have access, but might have to travel further to be able to get to it," Cosby said. "By being able to provide those vouchers to additional families to come here, makes it significantly easier to have a high-quality program right in their neighborhood.”

The director of education at United Way of Central Indiana, Michaelyn Meave said the program is designed to increase not only get more children in preschool, but also provide teacher development, better transportation for children to get to the programs, and improve classroom materials.

Right now, only 37 percent of Indiana preschool programs are considered high-quality. The UWCI is also working to improve that which could leave to more affordable early childhood education.

“We’re not only looking at the existing high-quality providers and building 160 high-quality seats is great, but we want to make sure those who aren’t on the system yet, get them on the system and build them up to level 3 so they’re available for other families," Meave said.

Meave said building up capacity now will help when the state expands preschool funding further.

“We aren’t going to get to where we need to be to serve all the children in the state if we don’t do some capacity building," she said. "We’re really lucky that in Marion County and in Indianapolis, we have so many strong partnerships of people who want to see that happen and become a reality.”