Nancy Vaughan column: On My Way Pre-K enrollment now open

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The 2019-2020 school year closed with 92 children more ready to enter kindergarten in our county thanks to scholarships provided by On My Way Pre-K (OMWPK).

In its second year, program participation was slightly up from 87 children in year one. Enrollment is open now for children who will be age 4 by Aug. 1 and plan to start kindergarten in the 2021-2022 school year.

Madison County joined OMWPK with the state’s expansion of its pilot program, and United Way of Madison County (UWMC) accepted responsibility to provide the local match requirement. For the year just completed, that match was $8,550 of a total cost of $514,188. This relatively small investment put 92 children on track to a successful start to kindergarten and beyond. It also enabled the entire amount to be invested in local child care organizations and those they employ. I call that a win-win-win.

 

By our calculations, as many as 200 Madison County children could be served through OMWPK annually. Expansion depends on the number of approved child care providers, the number of eligible families that apply, and our ability to provide the local match. UWMC will provide the match as long as we are financially able to do so. We welcome designated support for this program.

To be eligible to receive child care vouchers, providers must be a Level 3 Paths to Quality provider. Paths to Quality is Indiana’s child care rating and improvement system. Level One sets health and safety requirements; Level Two adds supportive learning requirements; Level Three includes planned curriculum guides and school readiness; and Level Four requires a national accreditation.

 

We have worked diligently with all of our local school systems and private providers to increase the number of available slots across the county, and we have advocated with the state to expand access.

This year, eligible households must have an income below 127 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) – $2,773 a month for a family of four – AND the parents or guardians in the household must be working, going to school or attending job training. Advocacy has helped expand access, if funds are available, to households up to 185 percent of the FPL ($4,039 a month for a family of four) and to households with a parent or guardian who is not working, but who receives Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. The latter requirement opens the door for the many children living with grandparents.

To get more information, apply online and find child care providers, log on to https://earlyedconnect.fssa.in.gov/. The site is available in English and Spanish. It also has information for Child Care Development Fund vouchers and providers. CCDF is a subsidy program for general child care. It also has a child care search link for anyone seeking a provider and information about the Paths to Quality program.

The state has contractors that manage the child care assistance programs. Madison County is one of 17 Central Indiana counties served by Maximus, www.intakechildcare.com, 833-946-8253. Additional assistance is available by calling 800-299-1627 or e-mailing solutionscenter@earlylearningindiana.org.