CINCINNATI – Pre-kindergarten programs in Hamilton County and Northern Kentucky received more than $10 million in funding to help children from low-income families prepare for kindergarten and academic success.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded grants to agencies throughout the nation, including:
• $4.7 million to Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency
• $2.4 million to Hamilton County Educational Service Center
• $3.4 million to the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, which serves Boone, Campbell, Kenton and Pendleton counties.
About 440 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families in Northern Kentucky will attend high-quality preschools thanks to the funding, according to Florence Tandy, executive director of the NKCAC.
"This is an important part of the early child continuum in Northern Kentucky," she said. "We're just so honored to have the opportunity to provide services of this nature for low-income children. Without quality preschool, our children will start school behind."
The funding restores a cut that Northern Kentucky suffered last year due to the sequestration budget fight in Washington and adds a nominal cost-of-living increase for staff of $43,000, according to Tandy.
While she is grateful for the funding, Tandy estimated that there at least three times as many preschool-aged children eligible for Head Start than there are funds available.
"It's a drop in the bucket. That's for sure," she said.
In Cincinnati and Hamilton County, about 3,300 children participate in Early Head Start and Head Start programs, according to Mason Gray, a Hamilton County Community Action Agency spokesman. He said those slots will be divided this year in a proportion to be determined between his agency and Hamilton County ESC.
Sen. Sherrod Brown released news of the Hamilton County grants. “This is excellent news for Hamilton County families and their children,” Brown said. “Head Start and Early Head Start ensure that children have the skills they need to succeed in elementary school and beyond.”