Preschool group lowers tuition help, aims to serve more families

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Preschool Promise Executive Director Robyn Lightcap talks about financial approaches.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The local Preschool Promise organization will lower the amount of tuition assistance for middle- and higher-income families next fall in an effort to provide at least some funding to a larger number of 4-year-olds.

Robyn Lightcap, executive director of Dayton-Montgomery County Preschool Promise, emphasized that families below 131 percent of the federal poverty level ($36,777 for a family of four) will still have their full co-pay covered.

RELATED: Preschool group approves $5.6 million budget for 2018

For higher-income families, tuition assistance in 2018-19 will range from $1,200 to $7,656 per full-time student, depending on family income and the star-rating of the center the child attends. That’s down from $1,800 to $9,000 for the current school year. Full-time preschool costs $10,000 to $12,500 per year at many 3-star to 5-star sites.

“They will receive less than they would have received this year, but it’s still a significant amount of money going toward their tuition,” Lightcap said. “These families were used to not getting anything at all (before this school year).”

RELATED: Preschool board tries to draw more Dayton families

Preschool Promise decided that Tier B (families at 131 to 200 percent of the federal poverty level) will get 15 percent less tuition assistance next year, while those over 200 percent of poverty will get 30 percent less.

Lightcap said families below 200 percent of the poverty level ($56,580 for a family of four) make up about 90 percent of Dayton families in the program.

The Preschool Promise board approved the 2018-19 tuition assistance tables for 4-year-old students last week. The group has committed all of the tuition assistance budgeted for the 2017-18 school year ($1.5 million-plus), but said they eventually hope to serve another 400 4-year-old students.

RELATED: DPS upset by preschool money, then softens approach

At the same time, Preschool Promise is reserving 46 percent of its 2018 budget for efforts to improve the quality of local preschool centers, via staff training and better curriculum and materials. The preschool board last week also approved a “quality stipend table” for 2018-19, spelling out funding for schools.

A participating school could receive anywhere from $2,000 to $12,000 in annual base funding from Preschool Promise to improve quality, plus a stipend of $50 to $600 per child per year, again based on their star rating and a measure of the student’s family income.

“The quality part is really important,” Lightcap said. “We want to help programs leverage the available state funding. In order to pull down more state funding, you need to increase your star rating. You get significantly more state money at a 3- to 5-star level — more than Preschool Promise could ever give them.”

RELATED: Coaching of schools, staff key to preschool effort

The preschool board approved a $5.6 million budget for calendar year 2018, with roughly $4.3 million of that coming from a 0.25 percent income tax increased approved by city of Dayton voters and paid by those who work in the city. Program backers cite research showing that low-income children who attend high-quality preschool are more ready for kindergarten and maintain academic gains in later years.

Preschool and child care providers in Dayton and Kettering can begin applying to be part of Preschool Promise for 2018-19 this week, with applications due Feb. 19. The full school list will be announced March 1, and families who will have 4-year-old students for 2018-19 can begin applying on March 5.

LAST YEAR: Families are getting up to $9,000 in tuition help

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Preschool students learn about earthworms in their first introduction to science at the University of Dayton’s Bombeck Family Learning Center preschool program. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Preschool students learn about earthworms in their first introduction to science at the University of Dayton’s Bombeck Family Learning Center preschool program. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Preschool students learn about earthworms in their first introduction to science at the University of Dayton’s Bombeck Family Learning Center preschool program. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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