Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Grant Goes To A For-Profit Private Daycare In My Own State!

Ten grants were awarded and some of the grants went to private child care centers as well to different school districts.

This grant program targets children of working families who earn too much to qualify for other grant programs. Family incomes can be as much as 300 percent of poverty levels. Or a child might be at risk because of a learning disability.

The grants are about $3,900 for half-day classes and $7,900 for full-day for 180 days, so the preschool is free for families.

At one daycare center, the children were sitting at tables coloring Christmas tree cards to send to soldiers overseas have varying degrees of motor skills. Some can already draw letters. Others are in the large scribbling phase.

By the end of the year, many will be writing their names.

Another daycare is located in the basement of a Lutheran Church which is warm and inviting, with colorful posters and decorations that look much like a kindergarten class. The alphabet, in large and small letters, runs around the wall.

The 4-year-olds have a full five-hour schedule: morning library; circle time with the calendar and Pledge of Allegiance and a song; snack, personal hygiene and nutrition; a lesson in math, science or health; individual center play; dance to music; story, lunch, outdoor or indoor play; art, story and discussion.

Much of the fun, or course, is really learning. Children develop social skills, such as how to get along with others; how to share and to sit still and do what their teacher says.

One little girl, Niquela, proudly tells a visitor, "I'm never going to cry here again!"

On the first day of kindergarten, teachers often see children who have never held a crayon. Or who don't know their colors or letters.

That puts them at a disadvantage with other children -- some of whom have attended private preschool and can already read.

And educators know that if children fall behind their peers in kindergarten and first grade, chances are they will never catch up.

So they point to preschool as a good tool to reducing dropout rates.

"If you have successfully created learners by the end of first grade, they will have a very good chance of succeeding in school, meaning they don't drop out and they graduate says one school principal who also coordinates other programs.

The grant award given to the private daycare was $165,000! The center has room for 15 children in half-day and 15 in full-day preschool. The $165,000 grant covers administrative costs, remodeling costs, and salaries for classroom teachers and teachers' aides.

• One school district received a $134,000 grant, which is being used for 34 spots for 4-year-olds. Most are in class at Elementary School. The school district chose to use $28,000 of its grant for a van to pick up and take kids home.

• Another Children's Center (along with two partners) obtained a $438,000 grant for 74 children. There are three classes at the center.

Parental involvement is a big part of the program, as well.

For instance, this month, children are practicing the triangle, letters D, E and F, and numbers 4, 5 and 6. Caden has already pointed out to her that he has a "C" in his name.

The grant recipients have long-standing, federally funded preschool programs because both have high poverty rates.

In addition, the daycare grant recipients are part of 30 school districts in the state involved in a public-private partnership to better train day care workers in the area.

A local organization along with state and foundation money, has funded the program's initiative.

Child care workers encourage parents to help children develop strong language skills by reading stories and encouraging children to talk.

Law enforcement support

Preschool programs get support from some unusual areas, as well.

Law enforcement associations support pre-kindergarten programs because they've seen the studies that show children who participate in early childhood programs are less likely to get into trouble or drop out of school.

Last March, one local county sheriff read to preschool children in the district in support of preschool.

He belongs to a nationwide group made up of more than 3,000 police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors, including about 200 in Pennsylvania.

The sheriff has said, "We can make an investment financially today that is small compared to what the costs could be later. It's pay a penny now or pay a dollar later." His group says the cost savings to taxpayers in preventing one child from going into a life of crime can be over a $1 million.

"Pennsylvania is one of the last states to get on the bandwagon of early childhood education," said another. "We've been more provincial with our farm tradition and many families have wanted to keep children at home."

But preschool is the No. 1 guarantor of success in school.

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