Federal Grant Allows Oklahoma To Improve Equity In Early Childhood Education
EDMOND, Oklahoma - Three million dollars is coming to the state for our early childhood education system. The OK Futures grant was recently awarded to the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness, which held its 3rd symposium at UCO this week.
Hundreds of people from around the state came to Edmond to learn about how to improve equity among early childhood education programs, and the new OK Futures grant is about to play a major role.
Providers sat side-by-side with families in the ballroom, as experts shared why many of our neighbors are struggling with childcare.
“They’re also listening to the research and then they can give us their perspective,” says OPSR executive director Debra Andersen,
Keynote speaker, University of Maryland College Park professor Brenda Jones Harden, is encouraged by the fact that 87% of four-year-olds are enrolled in preschool here, but points out that some children are still falling behind.
She says, “Oklahoma has done some amazing things with improving the quality of preschool. What I think Oklahoma could do better about is reaching children before that age.”
Vouchers for low-income parents are available to help with daycare before children reach preschool age. Jones Harden says not enough people are utilizing them, though, both nationwide and in Oklahoma.
“I think all state systems need to look very carefully at why their families aren’t using the vouchers more,” the professor says, “because those vouchers could potentially address the income problem that families are reporting.”
Coming in March, the state Office of Child Care is expected to raise the salary thresholds for eligibility, so OPSR wants to make sure parents are paying attention.
Andersen says, “Families are higher income levels will be more eligible than they were before, and their copays will be reduced from what they were before.”
The OK Futures grant will fund the effort to research and develop ways to serve even more children before they reach the classroom.
“We have a lot of good things going on in our state,” Andersen says, “but we know that not all families are able to access and we don’t want to make assumptions about why that is. We really need to hear from them.”
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