Dayton preschool board approves $5.5M budget

Bulk of funds aimed at improving quality of offerings within city.

ByJeremy P. Kelley

DAYTON — Dayton’s Preschool Promise board approved a $5.5 million planning budget for the next 16 months, with about half of that money aimed at improving the quality levels of local preschool providers.

The two main budget categories are $2.76 million to “expand quality” and $1.71 million to “assist families,” which includes tuition assistance. Most of the money comes from Dayton’s income tax increase.

“Quality is what matters most, and a number of our students have tuition assistance already because of the public funding that’s available, especially for lower-income families,” said Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton.

Debbie Feldman, chair of the Preschool Promise board, said those budget numbers are “a recognition that the quality aspect is truly paramount to the kindergarten success of children. Just having a child in preschool is not enough. We need high-quality preschool.”

Lightcap said more than 40 community-based preschool providers have applied to be part of the program, and she anticipates there will be about 70 total sites in the program this fall, counting those 40, plus Head Start and school-based programs in both Dayton and Kettering.

The quality assistance funding will include teacher skill and curriculum development, as well as classroom material resources. Lightcap said she expects the funding focus to flip more toward tuition assistance in future years, after many preschool providers have raised their quality levels.

Some of the quality funding is within an $800,000 line item for a contract with Dayton Public Schools, but both Feldman and Lightcap said that item is still being worked out.

DPS is only required to provide preschool to special education students, but has been offering free preschool to hundreds of others.

The other budget categories are “educating the community,” at $549,000, and administration, at $460,000. Included in the education category is $300,000 for a marketing campaign that includes paid advertising, while the largest expense under administration is a $255,000 contract with the University of Dayton’s Business Research Group.

Lightcap said that contract includes both information-gathering, to see which efforts have the most impact on kindergarten readiness, as well as accountability measures to ensure the Preschool Promise effort is meeting its goals. Richard Stock, leader of the UD group, has been a frequent collaborator with Learn to Earn Dayton.

“I feel really good about where we’re at,” Feldman said. “We had a head start with the pilot and demonstration projects ... so we’re not really starting from ground zero. I feel really confident that the program will be up and running, and we’ll have the communication and marketing plan in place to best reach our families.”

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