Hoosier parents can officially register kids for the state’s On My Way Pre-K program for the 2023-24 school year, state officials announced Monday.
The grant-based program provides access to free pre-kindergarten education for Indiana children from low-income families.
Children eligible for the upcoming school year must be 4 years old by August 1 and plan to go to kindergarten in the 2024-2025 academic year. They must live in a household with an income below 127% of the federal poverty level — equivalent to a household income of $3,175 per month for a family of four.
The child’s parents or guardians are also required to be working, going to school, attending job training, or searching for employment.
There will be limited enrollment for children who live in households with incomes up to 185% of the federal poverty level — equivalent to a monthly household income of up to $4,625 for a family of four. Those children must also have parents or guardians who are working, going to school, attending job training, searching for employment, or receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits.
Once a family is approved for a grant, they can choose any of the 1,055 approved On My Way Pre-K program providers located across the state. That includes programs located in a public or private school, licensed child care center, licensed home, or registered ministry. Families also have the ability to choose a program that is full or part-day, as well as from programs that end with the school year or continue through the summer.
The state enrolled more than 6,200 children in the program in 2022, according to Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). Officials expect to enroll even more kids this year, said Courtney Penn, director of FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.
There is no official deadline for applications because classroom start dates vary by district.
More than 21,000 Hoosier children have attended pre-K through the On My Way Pre-K program since it began in 2015. The program, which started as a five-county pilot and then expanded to 20 counties in 2017, became a statewide program in 2019.
State officials and education experts maintain that pre-K attendance helps children develop important social and learning skills that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond.
A Purdue University long-term study released last year additionally showed that children who attend On My Way Pre-K are better prepared for school and that the benefits continue well into elementary school.
Qualifying children who participated in On My Way Pre-K performed better than those who did not participate on general school readiness skills, such as identifying shapes, colors and numbers and language and literacy skills in kindergarten. Students in the program also tended to have higher performance on ILEARN English/Language Arts tests in grades 3 and 4.
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