The Preschool Promise Board and Dayton City Commission both approved a contract Wednesday that will create the funding stream to expand preschool access in Dayton during the next eight years.
The contract calls for the city to make $4.3 million available to Preschool Promise once upon execution of the deal this spring, then again each of the next seven years, for a total not to exceed $34.4 million.
“I’m very pleased to see the fast-moving progress of the Board of the preschool promise,” said Mayor Nan Whaley. “The citizens of Dayton really stepped up to pass Issue 9 and make Dayton one of only 10 cities in the country to provide high quality preschool to 4-year-olds.”
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The money comes from the 0.25 percent income tax increase that Dayton voters approved in November, and will be used primarily as tuition help for families and quality assistance to schools, to increase the number of high-quality preschool providers in the city.
Fifty-seven providers have agreed to take part in the Preschool Promise program, including all star-rated sites in the city, said Robyn Lightcap, director of Learn to Earn Dayton.
“We have a nice mix of different sizes of providers, and some providers who offer second-shift hours for families that have that need,” she said.
The contract requires Preschool Promise to file quarterly reports to the city as well as annual reports to the community at large, detailing performance data for each school year.
** Grassroots effort: The preschool board switched gears on its plans for a “field campaign” to promote the program. After first putting out a Request for Proposals for a vendor, the board has decided instead to hire 5-10 individuals who have done similar organizing work and “know the Dayton community well,” said Lightcap.
Program Manager Charmaine Webster said the group has already identified three likely candidates it hopes to hire into temporary part-time positions in the coming weeks. These “outreach specialists” would promote the program via neighborhood connections, community groups and events, and would recruit families to participate.
“I personally think that the most effective communication is going to be this face-to-face and the digital (messaging),” preschool board chair Debbie Feldman said.
** Marketing blitz: The preschool board will spend up to $125,000 this year advertising preschool expansion through multiple mediums – online banner ads, social media ads, billboards, radio ads, bus ads, email blasts and more.
** Attendance plan: Preschool Promise hopes to launch a bonus program next year. Lightcap said only about half of preschoolers in the current Demonstration project have attended at least 90 percent of scheduled days. She cited research showing that students with high attendance in their early years perform better on the state’s third-grade reading test.
The program would give Dayton families $25 on a reloadable debit card for each month in which their child had 90 percent attendance at a star-rated program. Feldman and board member Clay Dixon applauded the approach, which Lightcap said no other cities are doing.
“Some behavior modification might be needed for the parents for them to see how important it is for their children to go to school,” Dixon said. “If we don’t reach the parents on getting their children to school, then I don’t think (we’ll succeed).”