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Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program Reaches 90 Percent Enrollment


John Ladd: (216) 443-6583; John.Ladd@jfs.ohio.gov
Miranda Pomiecko: (216) 698-2546; mpomiecko@cuyahogacounty.us

CLEVELAND – Invest in Children, the public/private partnership within Cuyahoga County’s Office of Early Childhood, has been steadily increasing both the number of children enrolled in its flagship Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program (UPK) and the quality of the preschools they attend. As of early February, 90 percent of the available seats in the program were filled, a point in the school year that is earlier than in any previous year.

“Expanding UPK in Cuyahoga County has been one of our top priorities,”  said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. “I am proud to say we have reached 90 percent of available UPK seats filled, this shows that our community has really joined together to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn and grow in a high-quality preschool environment and enhance kindergarten readiness.”

Reaching such a strong enrollment figure now means that a higher number of the enrolled children will have more time in the program before attending kindergarten. The UPK program’s most recent evaluation showed that 73 percent of children who attend preschool for 18 months or more at a UPK site score “on track” on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, compared to 43 percent of children in high-quality non-UPK sites. UPK children also scored a full 10 points higher on the assessment’s social foundations scales.

"Reaching 90 percent enrollment by February shows not only how strong the need in the community is, but also that parents understand that quality matters,” said Rebekah Dorman, Director of Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children.

In 2016, Cuyahoga County made it a priority to expand the program and committed $10 million in new public dollars. An additional $12.8 million in private funding was raised, demonstrating the community’s strong support of the initiative. The expansion more than doubled the number of seats available and increased the scholarship assistance available to families beginning in the 2017-2018 school year. This has resulted in more than $3.2 million in scholarships over the past three and a half years, making a high-quality preschool experience within reach of more families.

Many different factors make a preschool a high-quality site that meets the UPK Program’s higher gold standard. Attributes that are noticed by parents include, lower teacher to child classroom ratios, teachers with higher education and continuing professional development, and programs that excel in engaging the whole family.

Parents and other caregivers can find a high-quality UPK site by visiting www.cuyahogakids.org.

Invest in Children mobilizes resources and energy to ensure the well-being of all young children in Cuyahoga County.