Uncertain future of Jonesboro pre-k program focus of meeting
Over 30 concerned parents, teachers and other members of the community attended the July meeting of the Jonesboro School District No. 43 Board of Education on Friday, July 27.
The group was on hand to voice their concerns about the uncertain future of the Jonesboro pre-kindergarten program.
Earlier this summer, Jonesboro School District’s application for the Early Childhood Block Grant had been denied by the Illinois State Board of Education, ISBE. Jonesboro had been using the grant to fund its pre-k program for nearly 30 years.
Due to limited funds and an increase in the number of applicants, many schools, including Cobden and Jonesboro, that had previously counted on the grant to fund their pre-k programs found themselves off the list.
Other schools, like Anna School District No. 37, found that they were receiving less funding than previously thought.
Jonesboro School District superintendent Dr. Keith Reinhardt immediately appealed ISBE’s decision, as well as the score issued by evaluators that had Jonesboro missing the cut off for eligibility by just two points.
On July 12, Jackie Matthews, director of media and external communications for ISBE, released a statement addressing the pre-k issue and the steps which were being taken to help schools that were eligible but still missed the cut.
“The State Board of Education is collaborating with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and the Department of Human Services on a solution to fund additional high quality Prevention Initiative and Preschool for All Expansion programs,” the statement read.
“The agreement will fund programs that met standards (scored 60 or above) and did not initially receive funding for FY 2019 due to the limited funds in the State Board’s appropriation.”
If initiated, this expansion potentially takes care of the schools that were eligible for the grant, but were not covered because of the lack of funds.
But Jonesboro still must appeal the evaluation of its score in order to qualify for this expansion of the program.
At the July 27 board meeting, over a dozen of those in attendance spoke out on the issue, sharing both personal and professional stories about the importance of pre-k programs for the preparation and socialization of children before they enter kindergarten.
However, no motion was on the meeting’s agenda regarding the pre-k program. And board members have stated their intent to wait for the results of the appeal before making any permanent decisions about the program.
Meanwhile, the Anna pre-k program has also been affected by the ISBE decision. Anna School District 37 was approved for the grant. However the amount of funding the district is receiving is less than previously expected.
Initially, Anna had intended to add a full-day pre-k class for 20 additional students for the 2018-2019 school year. This would be in addition to the two half-day classes already offered.
However, the funding the district was expecting to cover the added class was not as much as was being planned.
As a compromise, the district will be adding another half-day class in the morning with 20 additional students, instead of the full day that was being planned.
Anna still has pre-k openings available in each session. For more information about the program, contact Becky Lannom by email at email@example.com or call and leave a message at 833-6851.
Cobden School District No. 17 was another area school left off of the grant approval list. However, the Cobden pre-k program is scheduled to go on as expected.
In an email, Cobden superintendent Edwin Shoemate said, “We have had internal positions filled with current staff members and have not had to hire new staff. This allows us to absorb the cost of the pre-k salaries. Our (Board of Education) is committed to providing the pre-k program for the students in Cobden….We will provide services to 40 students this year.”
Jonesboro still awaits word on the ISBE decision. The appeals process can take up to 60 days from the day it was submitted, which for Jonesboro was June 18. The Jonesboro School District is set to begin the new school year on Aug. 17.