The importance of early childhood education
I was so pleased to hear that the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) named the Southeastern Indiana YMCA of Ripley County as one of the 30 organizations to receive an Early Childhood Education Matching Grant. The grant will provide quality early education for low-income Hoosier children.
The Indiana General Assembly always places a large focus on education, but over the last two sessions, we have worked especially hard to establish programs that help low-income families get their children enrolled in high-quality preschools. Our local YMCA Learning Center provides this superior, state licensed care.
The Early Childhood Education Matching Grant program was created during the 2013 legislative session allowing high-quality, early care and education programs to apply for matching funds. The awarded funds are to go towards serving 4-year-old children from families whose incomes are below federal poverty guidelines.
Applying facilities were required to have a Level Three or Level Four in Paths to QUALITY rating. Paths to QUALITY is Indiana’s voluntary child care quality rating and improvement system awarded by the FSSA. The Southeastern Indiana YMCA maintains a Level Four status showing their dedication to educating our young, local children. The applicants also had to secure a cash match from a community organization or other funding source.
The 30 grants awarded to early childhood education facilities total nearly $1.5M, while the organizations themselves obtained a combined additional $1.5M. We should be proud of our community members that worked to obtain the cash match which was necessary for our local YMCA Learning Center to be chosen as a recipient of one of these grants. The funding will allow the Southeastern Indiana YMCA to educate more preschool children and better our community.
We did not feel content with just the matching grant program, as this session we funded a preschool pilot program with House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1004. HEA 1004 is similar to the grant program, as both effect children who come from a household with an income of up to 127 percent of the Federal Poverty Level get their enrolled in a quality preschool program. However, the preschool pilot program instead aims toward students rather than early education facilities, meaning that families will be receiving early education vouchers which will help fund a preschool student’s high-quality education with eligible providers. The pilot program may include providers in up to 5 counties.
Early education programs are vital for Hoosier children’s development, and being able to help those from lesser means will pay great dividends. Studies have shown that children should receive 1,400 hours of reading by the time they enter first grade, but, sadly, children of poverty generally only receive 25 hours. This is a staggering difference that really makes kindergarten and first grade difficult for the child and the teacher. How well a child does early in their education is a strong predictor of success in high school and is even correlated to incarceration rates. By preparing children with an early education, they will be less likely to fall behind and more likely to succeed.
Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.