April 16, 2014

Elyria
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Cuyahoga County pushes preschool programs

CLEVELAND — Officials in Ohio’s most populous county are pushing early childhood education by helping preschool programs hire more teachers and purchase new computers.

Cuyahoga County commissioners on Thursday are to consider spending $9.4 million for 24 preschool programs, including the Oakfield Child Enrichment Center in Cleveland.

Money for the pilot program is coming from the county’s general fund and grants. The preschool improvement effort started with Invest in Children, a public-private partnership formed by commissioners eight years ago. The goal is to cover the cost of preschool education for 12,000 county children by 2018. That’s estimated to be close to $50 million a year.

Most of the dollars in the pilot program will go to hiring teachers and improving pay.

Nakiaa Robinson, program manager at the county’s Office of Early Childhood, said parents will have choices of the type of care they want for their children. Cleveland’s Tremont Montessori School is the lone public school that applied for county money.

Robinson said about 1,000 children, ages 3 to 5, should benefit from the pilot program beginning this month.

“We’ve worked very closely with the state of Ohio in terms of the planning here in Cuyahoga County,” Robinson said Tuesday.
The county’s program is designed to align with the statewide Early Learning Initiative, a collaboration of the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, to help low-income families with child care needs and to help children be prepared for kindergarten.

That program for children ages 3, 4 and 5 was funded with $104.3 million in fiscal year 2006 and $125.2 million in fiscal year 2007. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Robinson said.

The county’s preschool program is designed to help reduce costs for low-income and middle-income parents and raise the quality of programs that may already be getting state and federal funding.