The local Preschool Promise Board, sprinting toward a fall launch of expanded high-quality preschool in Dayton, will soon begin a large marketing campaign to explain the program to the public.
The big challenge this first year is figuring out how to market a program that’s still in the process of being built, as the deadline for schools and other providers to sign up is still a week away.
“It is a significant lift, and we know it’s critically important,” said Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton. “We know not all parents understand what preschool options are out there right now. We know there’s a lot of confusion. … and we know we have to build systems to help them.”
The Preschool Promise board approved a large marketing plan this week, including plans to hire a vendor to run a “field campaign” for grassroots outreach in Dayton. Board member and former Dayton mayor Clay Dixon said the marketing approach “is of the utmost importance.”
“That is actually how we’ll go out in the community, shoulder to shoulder, eyeball to eyeball, with the parents to make sure they are aware of the program, aware of what we do to get those kids into one of our quality programs,” Dixon said.
The board’s request for proposals for field campaign vendors is going out this week. Lightcap said the vendor will hire people who know Dayton’s neighborhoods and can build relationships with community partners, all in an effort to connect with the families who would participate in expanded preschool. The income tax increase that Dayton voters approved in November will fund access to high-quality preschool for 4-year-olds in the city.
Lightcap said the key is figuring out who the “key influencers” are in each area, even down to the granular level of which parents moms of young children are listening to.
“It’s not as much knocking on doors (in most cases),” she said. “It’s more about building relationships with the trusted entities in the neighborhood – the churches, the social service agencies, the grocery stores, laundromats, pediatricians.”
Preschool Promise is still signing up schools and other providers this month – both those that are already high-quality, and those willing to work through the state’s quality improvement process. The overall marketing effort will launch in March, including traditional advertising, whether via radio or online, on buses or billboards.
“We need to make sure the community understands the purpose of the program, and make sure that our kiddos in all parts of the city get the quality they deserve,” Preschool Promise board member Jane McGee-Rafal said.
In April, families will be able to sign up their 4-year-old children for the start of the 2017-18 school year next fall, with significant tuition assistance available at approved centers and providers.
Preschool Promise officials said since the expanded program is brand-new, they don’t expect 2017-18 to be a perfect, completed system, with full understanding from parents, and maximum participation from school providers. The income tax increase is estimated to provide $4.3 million per year over eight years, allowing the program to build on itself over time.
The preschool board’s next meeting is March 2, when the group will discuss the budget for the 2017-18 school year.
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