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Cleveland Schools Aim to Boost Enrollment in High-Quality Preschools

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 3:18 PM

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The Cleveland Metropolitan School District district wants to more than double the number of four-year-olds enrolled in high-quality preschool over the next few years. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports the city and Cuyahoga County announced a multimillion-dollar plan to do so Tuesday.

Photo Gallery

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson looks on at the announcement of his preschool plan. (Nick Castele / ideastream) The Gund Foundation's Marcia Egbert, the chair of the district's preschool task force. (Nick Castele / ideastream) Cleveland preschool teacher Duanna Hunter speaks at the kickoff for PRE4CLE. (Nick Castele / ideastream) Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon announcing the PRE4CLE preschool plan. (Nick Castele / ideastream)

The plan is called PRE4CLE, and the goal is to enroll 2,000 more four-year-olds into preschool programs considered high quality.

The plan increases preschool class sizes, while adding teaching assistants to keep the student-to-teacher ratio down. It also includes teacher training to bump up the number of programs considered high quality. 

Marcia Egbert with the Gund Foundation said two things standing in the way of enrolling in preschool now are distance and price. 

“We know making options available both close to home or accessible by affordable and convenient transportation is an important barrier to overcome,” Egbert said. “Also, cost…while some options have no cost to the families, others do.”

Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon says with better pre-K enrollment in better programs, students will have improved chances at meeting the state’s third-grade reading standards.

“We know that we cannot remediate our way out of a challenge when instead we have to help our children arrive ready for kindergarten, the single goal of PRE4CLE,” Gordon said. “And so it is a critical driver in the Cleveland plan for transforming schools.”

The program starts this fall. It’s going to cost $15 million this upcoming school year, and $20 million the next. The funds will come from a mix of federal, state, county and city dollars. Egbert says about half the money is in place for the first year..

The city acknowledges that even if PRE4CLE succeeds in the couple of years, there still will be thousands of preschool-age children in Cleveland not enrolled in high-quality programs.

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