CINCINNATI — The so-called "soft infrastructure" bill includes $200 billion to help ensure the nation's children are ready for kindergarten.
But as Congress debates whether U.S. taxpayers should cover the cost, Cincinnati voters are seeing the results of a similar commitment locally through Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
Funded by a five-year Cincinnati Public Schools levy passed in 2016, Preschool Promise provides subsidies to low-income families to help pay for their children to attend quality preschools. The levy generates $15 million per year for the program.
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Chara Fisher-Jackson says it's working.
"In our research and our findings and outcomes, every year 74.5% of children who attend a high-quality preschool, through Cincinnati Preschool Promise with tuition assistance, show up to kindergarten ready," said Fisher-Jackson, Cincinnati Preschool Promise executive director and CEO. "It is so crucial that every child have a fair and equitable start and access to those educational opportunities."
That's because important learning happens during the earliest years of a child's life, she said.
"What we know is that a child's learning and development and brain development happens in that zero to five space," Fisher-Jackson said. "To make sure that kids are not only ready with literacy, math, but their social emotional learning and development is on track as well."
Fisher-Jackson said she hopes additional funding will be directed to public schools and also to preschools operated by community providers -- many of whom are Black women -- and that money for preschool doesn't come at the expense of even younger children.
"Because that will create a disparity in the system that many preschools won't be able to survive if they aren't also able to meet the needs of parents and families and children who are infants and toddlers," she said.
A lack of high-quality teachers could present problems, too, Fisher-Jackson added.
"It's time for an innovative, outside-of-the-box thinking," she said. "How can we make sure that not only this generation, but the next generation of educators, is supported, and that people are excited about coming to work at a preschool."
The Cincinnati Preschool Promise board will get data Tuesday from its latest assessments on how students are doing, she said, and plans to share that information with the public.
Children who turn 3 by Sept. 30 can be enrolled in preschool now. More information is available on the Cincinnati Preschool Promise home page.