Preschools Collaborate Toward Expansion
FLAGSTAFF April 11, 2019
Over thirty Flagstaff area preschool directors, early childhood educators, K-12 school officials, and interested community members met today to explore opportunities for collaboration toward expanding preschool access.
The group met as part of the community conversation started by the publication of LAUNCH Flagstaff’s report and recommendation for expanding access to high-quality preschool in Flagstaff.
LAUNCH Flagstaff convened the group to strengthen relationships, improve communication, and engage preschool directors for their expertise in moving the planning forward toward serving the children who are currently not participating in any preschool program because of their families economic circumstances.
The LAUNCH Flagstaff report estimates that there are over 230 4-year old children in Flagstaff who are not enrolled in preschool because their families earn income above the threshold for admission into the Federally subsidized Head Start program and can not afford private, tuition-based preschools. Meeting the needs of these children and families is the goal of the collaborative effort.
In small breakouts and full group discussions, the participants identified the greatest obstacles to accessing high quality preschool in Flagstaff. Over 80% of their statements related to high costs – like the rising minimum wage and a lack of scholarships; awareness of the importance of quality early education by the community; and the lack of available seats in existing programs.
Data show that there are nearly three children for each space in early childhood education programs in the Flagstaff area.
When asked to discuss what an ideal model for all preschool across Flagstaff could look like, the group focused on convenience, accessibility, family supports, affordability and deeper partnerships – especially with local business.
The group defined “quality” in high-quality preschool in line with the standards of Quality First, the quality rating and improvement system of First Thing First. These standards include certified teachers in the classroom, low student to teacher ratios, and nationally-normed student progress monitoring. Comments also included the ability to leverage the phenomenal outdoor spaces available to us in Flagstaff for exploring, creativity and play.
Ideas for future collaboration centered around coordinated efforts for raising awareness of the importance of high-quality early childhood educational experiences to families, policy-makers, and tax-payers.
The next meeting for the group is still being planned.