When you walk into a high quality preschool, immediately you’ll see learning happening. A high quality program has a sense of purpose, organization, and excitement. When children have access to high quality preschool, they are more likely to be prepared socially and academically for later learning and opportunities. Currently in Oregon there are gaps in who has access to preschool. Affordable high quality, culturally responsive preschool for families experiencing poverty and families of color are very limited.
This is where Preschool Promise comes in. Preschool Promise is a new publicly funded pilot preschool system that will offer free preschool to families whose incomes are below 200% of the Federal Poverty levels.
Preschool Promise is scheduled to begin serving children and families in September 2016. Initially, the funding will benefit 4-6 communities in Oregon and regional Early Learning Hubs will coordinate local implementation. The competitive application process for Hubs will begin at the end of December 2015. The application process is designed to assess a Hub’s capacity and readiness to implement Preschool Promise in their service delivery area. This includes their ability to select and contract with a variety of providers who align with the intent of the legislation. The Early Learning Council will select the awardees and contracts will be finalized in May 2016. Then, providers and Hubs will work in collaboration with the Early Learning Division to prepare to serve our children.
My role as Preschool Promise Program Coordinator is to ensure that the opportunity inherent in Preschool Promise is actualized. I have been with the Early Learning Division since September, first as an Oregon Prekindergarten Specialist and now supporting Preschool Promise. The thought of implementing a new program that “lives” only in the words of a house bill and in the minds and hearts of many across the state is a bit daunting. Sometimes there are more questions than answers! I have only been at the Division for a couple months and I know that the vision for a new high quality preschool system can be actualized because of the Division’s commitment to engaging and learning from communities across Oregon, the existing early learning expertise within the Division and the focus on equity that ensures that children and families farthest from opportunity are a top priority for service implementation. Preschool Promise provides all of us with an opportunity to work together and create a preschool system that positively impacts children, families, and communities across Oregon.
Since moving to Oregon in 2003, I have lived and worked in Hood River, Wasco, Polk, Marion and Lane counties. I was a Migrant Head Start Director for the Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC) and most recently I was the Director for Head Start of Lane County. For twenty years I have worked in educational systems with a focus on social justice. I was a kindergarten teacher in New Hampshire, a Child Abuse Prevention Advocate in Utah, and a Secondaria teacher in Mexico. I grew up in a family that experienced poverty and has strong values regarding connection to others, experiences in nature, and education. I have seen the sparkle of joy in a child’s eye when he/she is engaged in learning and I have seen the pride in a parent’s tear when their child shares their success. I am looking forward to coordinating the implementation of Preschool Promise and ensuring that more children and families share this experience through participation in Preschool Promise.