The Oregon Department Of Education Awards Millions Of Up To $229k Per Student To Under-enrolled Preschool Programs

Village Childcare Enterprises in Oregon has received more than $600,000 over the past two years, intending to serve 33 preschoolers from low-income families in 2020–2021 and 20 preschoolers in 2021–2022. However, the center indicated that fewer than ten students were enrolled in the program then.

The story of Village Childcare Enterprises is not an outlier but only one example of the millions of dollars awarded to early childhood education centers in Oregon—even when they have been largely vacant or only partially occupied.

To provide publicly financed preschool to families living 200% below the federal poverty line, Oregon’s Preschool Promise program was established in 2016. The Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education grants “slots” to child care facilities, each representing one student and worth around $14,000.

With a little over 2,100 students enrolled in the program in February 2021 and just over 3,300 students enrolled in the program in February 2022, the Oregon Department of Education has distributed approximately $90 million in Preschool Promise funds over the last two academic years.

With no or, very few students enrolled, early learning facilities in Oregon received hundreds of thousands of dollars in financing under the Preschool Promise program.

When no students were enrolled in Preschool Promise in 2020 or 2021, All Families Welcome was given 18 spots. There was only one student enrolled in 2021–2022. Despite this, the facility received payments of nearly $300,000 one year and over $220,000 the following year.

The Oregon Department Of Education Awards Millions
The Oregon Department Of Education Awards Millions

Despite receiving 12 slots in 2020–2021 and 10 spots in 2021–2022, Education Explorers only had two students enrolled. However, the center received $150,000 in one year and $74,000.

Neighborhood House received 36 places in both years, although fewer than ten pupils attended. For the 2020–2021 academic year, they received $448,000; for 2021–2022, $370,000.

Happy schoolchildren entering the building on their first day of classes on a rainy autumn day in September (stock )

According to a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Education, Preschool Promise funding is primarily tied to fixed costs like staffing, utilities, and facilities. Additionally, centers must be ready to serve eligible families as soon as they are referred, which means they must be ready to fill all funded slots at all times.

The spokesman explained, “In other words, organizations cannot put off serving recommended children while they expand their personnel or move into larger facilities; the lion’s share of the financing helps them stay ready to serve referred children right away.

Save Oregon Schools’ Jeff Myers called out the Oregon Department of Education for their lack of openness in the program’s funding and informed Fox News Digital of the funding inconsistency.

“ELD falsely states on its website that it served 3,756 students during the 2021–22 academic year. “They did have space for 3,756 children across 268 providers, according to the public information they eventually gave, but the actual number of enrolled children was 3,313,” he told Fox News Digital.

The Finch Academy received subsidies for 36 kids in the Preschool Promise program; however, in the 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 school years, no students were enrolled.

Owner of The Finch Academy, Delorie Finch, attributed the unfilled spaces to the Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education, which oversees Preschool Promise.

“We were also assured that we would be given the pupils,” she said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “We have been advised that we need to take the students.”

According to Finch, her facility has a license for 40 kids, and the Finch Academy is prepared to take that many pupils. Finch claimed that in order to keep the 36 spots open for Preschool Promise pupils who “never come,” she has been compelled to refuse service to paying clients.

She stated that she and her team were both offended by the fact that there were no youngsters available for service. It could be that they send two or three youngsters over this week but never actually show up.

The Oregon Department Of Education Awards Millions
The Oregon Department Of Education Awards Millions

“Helping these kids is something that is very important to me. Working with kids, regardless of their socioeconomic situation, is a privilege for me. Our goal is to give every child a secure, nurturing atmosphere where they may develop strong moral, academic, social, mental, and physical foundations that will help them succeed in a constantly changing environment, she added.

Grantees are required to “participate in the regional Early Learning Hub coordinated enrollment process,” but only “enroll families selected through the local Coordinated Enrollment Process managed by Early Learning Hubs,” according to the Department of Education’s website.

The Early Learning Division informed Fox News Digital it is assessing its practices in light of these lower-than-expected figures.

The Early Learning Division is looking at procedures for reviewing enrolment, and it is instructing programs to scale back operations until enrollment rises. Due to safety concerns, this strategy was not in place in 21–23 while we worked to lessen the effects of the COVID–19 pandemic on families and the gradual return to childcare. Still, it is currently being discussed for potential future use. Currently, programs with low enrolment must attain 75% of participants by the halfway point of the program year, the spokeswoman added.

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