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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 1:00 am

On My Way Pre-K expansion sees benefits

Associated Press

SOUTH BEND – Indiana's pre-K program will grow thanks to a $22 million expansion lawmakers passed last year.

On My Way Pre-K is coming to 20 counties in Indiana, up from a five-county pilot program, the South Bend Tribune reported.

Available in Allen County since 2015, On My Way Pre-K awards grants to children from low-income families so they can attend a high-quality pre-K program the year before kindergarten. Families can use the grant at any approved On My Way Pre-K program.

Other pilot counties are Bartholomew, DeKalb, Delaware, Elkhart, Floyd, Grant, Harrison, Howard, Jackson, Kosciusko, Lake, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vanderburgh and Vigo.

St. Joseph County enrolled nearly 50 children in a partial rollout in January. The county has received more than 100 applications since the program's March 1 broader launch, but only about 80 qualify, said Anna Carter, project manager for the program in St. Joseph, Elkhart, Marshall and Kosciusko counties.

The program covers preschools that are accredited or at least rated Level 3 in the state's Paths to Quality rating. Tuition is covered up to the market rate for each county, plus 10 percent. Parents pay any remaining fees.

A family's income must be below 127 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify. Children must be at least 4 years old by Aug. 1 to enroll, and parents must be enrolled in school or working to qualify.

“We will work with folks who think they don't immediately qualify,” said Marni Lemons, spokeswoman for Indiana's Family & Social Services Administration.

Parents can enroll in any college class that offers credit, such as English as a second language, or enroll in a GED program or job training, Carter said. Having a job for at least 10 hours per week will qualify.