Preschoolers from the YMCA Early Childhood Education & Learning Center sing a song Aug. 31, 2016 at Grace United Methodist Church, kicking off the Northwest Demonstration project of Dayton’s Preschool Promise. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

City names leaders of preschool board

Former mayor Dixon among members; county preschool expansion beset by budget concerns

Dayton City Commission appointed the majority of the new Preschool Promise board on Wednesday night, including former mayor Richard Clay Dixon and former Dayton Public Schools administrator Jane McGee-Rafal.

The group will start with five voting members, one of whom will be appointed by Montgomery County commissioners next week. The four appointed by city officials were Dixon, McGee-Rafal, Foodbank CEO Michelle Riley and Anissa Lumpkin, a legislative liaison at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base who has been a member of the Preschool Promise Advisory Board.

The city also appointed a Dayton parent of school-age children, Tasha Maye, to an “ex-officio” role, which likely will be a nonvoting position.

Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton, said the board is starting off weighted toward city appointees because the city has made its commitment to funding, while the county is still working on its end.

Montgomery County Administrator Joe Tuss said countywide preschool expansion remains a high priority for the county commission, but is complicated by budget issues. The end of the sales tax for Medicaid-managed care services will first hit the county in late 2017, creating an $8 million annual revenue shortfall in the general fund, Tuss said.

The outcome of this summer’s state budget process could have an impact on how the county moves forward on preschool, with a phased-in process possible, Tuss said.

Lightcap said if the county gears up for preschool expansion, the board likely would expand to the originally planned seven people, with county commissioners appointing the extra members. More ex-officio members could also be added, including other parents or preschool providers.

Each of the next eight years, $4.3 million from Dayton’s city income tax increase will go toward increasing high-quality preschool access for 4-year-olds in the city. Lightcap said most of the money will go toward tuition assistance for families and “quality assistance” to help preschools upgrade and expand their programs.

The Preschool Promise board, which will be set up as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, will oversee those efforts.

“There are lots of important decisions that have to be made about staffing and contractors,” Lightcap said of the board’s work. “And the timeline is pretty tight to ensure that we can bring providers on board in early 2017, and begin the application and enrollment process for families as they plan for their little ones for next fall.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she expects that the board will meet every other week and be very hands-on. It will have public meetings like a city or school district.

“We know that this is a huge promise and we have been working quickly to make sure that the program is ready to go in September,” Whaley said. “We have seen great progress in the past 12 months as the Northwest Dayton demonstration project has been created and implemented.”

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