If you talk to most people working in the education field, they will tell you about the importance of early learning for children – how three and four year olds who attend a high-quality preschool program before entering kindergarten can benefit from such programs. But talk to an early learning advocate in eastern Oregon and they will also tell you it’s difficult to find early learning programs.
A new grant from the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division is helping to change that. Preschool Promise is a model for a publicly funded, high-quality preschool system. It leverages high-quality, local and culturally relevant early child care and education programs and makes them available to children living at 200% of the poverty level (for example, a family of four making $53,000 or less per year). By incorporating a mixed delivery approach, which recognizes that high quality early learning experiences can take place in a wide variety of settings, Preschool Promise provides opportunities for families to access and choose the preschool setting which best meets their needs.
According to Michelle Gomez, coordinated enrollment specialist at the Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub, the purpose of Preschool Promise programs is to create an inclusive, welcoming environment for all children and families, regardless of ability, family composition, culture, language or family income. “The program is also designed to support parents as partners in their child’s learning and development, which is important for student success,” Gomez said.
Currently, there are 11 Preschool Promise locations in the Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub region of Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties. Gomez said some of these programs are home-based and some are more traditional preschool classrooms.
To qualify for Preschool Promise programs, children must be three or four years old on or before September 1 of the program year and they must live in Oregon. The annual or previous 12 months income of the child’s family must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line. Children in Foster Care are automatically eligible.
Right now, Gomez said, the goal is to get the word out about the program and get students enrolled. “We are excited for this opportunity for families of young children in our region and right now, we are working hard to get kids signed up,” Gomez said.
For more information and to sign up for Preschool Promise, visit www.BlueMountainKids.org or email Contact@BlueMountainKids.org.