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Indiana cuts Elkhart County out of bid for pre-K funding

Five Indiana counties are getting part of the $10 million Indiana set aside for pre-K assistance. Elkhart County was a finalist but didn't make the final cut.

Posted on July 22, 2014 at 6:34 p.m.

Elkhart County won’t be one of five Indiana counties getting preschool vouchers from the state. 

Indiana’s new pre-K pilot program will launch in early 2015 in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties, as announced on Tuesday, July 22.

Low income families in those counties will get financial aid so their child can attend a pre-K program.

Back in June, Elkhart County was selected as one of the 18 finalist counties for the pre-K funding, along with Allen, Bartholomew, Delaware, Grant, Howard, Kosciusko, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Noble, Jackson, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh, Vigo and Wayne counties.

Elkhart County’s application for the money, prepared by nonprofit education group Horizon Education Alliance, noted 1,172 children in Elkhart County are under-served by pre-K programs. 

Horizon estimated financial assistance from the state could mean 500 of those children would be able to enter a pre-K program.

Brian Wiebe, executive director of Horizon, said Tuesday he’s disappointed Elkhart County won’t be part of the state’s pilot program, but he believes the county put forth a good effort to win the aid.

“The awards were based on many factors, including overall need and we just weren't ultimately chosen,” he said. “I was very proud of the statement of county readiness that we submitted. I know we won’t be deterred, and I expect Elkhart County to continue to work toward providing high quality preschool for more and more 4-year olds.”

In a statement announcing the winning counties on Tuesday, Gov. Mike Pence noted all 18 counties that applied for the pilot program demonstrated a strong commitment to pre-K, but the counties selected have the highest level of readiness, capacity and financial commitment.

The final selection was made by an advisory group that included academic researchers from Ball State, Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana University, as well as others working in early childhood education organizations statewide. 

Even though Elkhart County won’t be part of the pilot program, Wiebe suggested the state could help fund pre-K in the county through future opportunities.

He’s surmising this based on a letter Horizon received from Melanie Brizzi, director of the state’s Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning.

Brizzi wrote “the work that the Alliance has done is impressive” and added she believes her office may be able to partner with Horizon on early education projects, including through a second round of grant funds.

Horizon plans to continue to improve pre-K in Elkhart County by doing a teacher training in August where 20 local preschool classrooms will work together to learn a play-based preschool program that prepares children for kindergarten. 

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks


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