Preschool Aid Program Brings Thousands of Applicants

Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd

Poverty-stricken families in the Indianapolis area are clamoring to win one of the coveted 1,300 preschool scholarships that recently became available thanks to the city’s mayor, Greg Ballard.

Ballard was a strong supporter of the public-private funding that will provide $40 million to families for preschool over a five year period. The program began this past summer after being approved by a city council that was divided on the vote.

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Almost 5,000 families applied for the 1,300 available scholarships, which will provide a maximum of $6,800 per year for full-day preschool and a minimum of $2,500 for part-time preschool. Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth is excited about the interest in the program and stated that similar programs in other areas had a lower rate of participation.

The intention of the preschool aid program is to provide funds to those who need it the most, primarily families of four with yearly income levels of less than $55,000. Because of the overwhelming response from applicants, a lottery will be held and families will be notified if they are chosen.

Neighborhood Resource Center and the United Way of Central Indiana oversaw the recruitment by advertising on radio, community events and billboards. Members even went door-to-door and visited barber shops, churches and salons to get the word out.

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The next action to be taken will be to verify that there is sufficient availability within qualified preschools to enroll the 1,300 winners. United Way is working with preschools to achieve the required ratings needed to enroll students. Preschools must have a 3 or 4 rating on a four-step rating system created by the state. The rating system ensures that the facility is safe and offers quality education programs.

Ballard’s office projected that 6,000 families would apply for the scholarships and it was nearly on target with almost 5,000 applicants.