By: Krystle Crossman
A new plan is in place in 12 different schools in the Omaha area that being hailed as “game-changing” for early childhood education. In these schools at least half of the children are on the free or reduced lunch programs. The hope is that with this new plan in place they will take poverty out of the equation as a factor in a child’s education. If the program does well in Omaha more areas may adopt it and help more children around the country. Just as a result of these 12 schools taking the program on there will be 4,300 students that are directly affected by it when it starts this summer and with directly and indirectly affect over 21,000 over the course of three years.
The first initiative in the program is to do home visits. The schools will have 25 professionals on staff that will visit the homes of prospective students from the time they are born up until 3 years old. Three and four year olds will all have access to high-quality preschool. In many areas good preschools are hard to come by if you are not wealthy. Once they get to kindergarten through third grade they will have constant support from qualified staff and will have a consistent curriculum which will help children of all income levels to remain on track with their peers.
Every one of the districts that is involved with this program will receive special training and counseling that is focused on early childhood education. The program was approved by the Learning Community Council for three years but there is still one hurdle that they need to make it over before the program can be implemented. The cost of this program is around $2.5 million. The money will come from a ½ cent increase in property taxes in the areas that are participating.
In the end they are optimistic that this program can help change the gap between income classes when it comes to education. Often times children that live in lower income areas do not have the same access to support, health care, or even parents that other children do. They do not learn the vocabulary that a child in a wealthy home does. They don’t get to spend quality time with their parents. Many of them barely see their parents as both often work multiple jobs to afford their bills. The schools are hoping that the home visits and extreme focus on early childhood education will be a great way to have the children properly educated and also to show the parents new ways to help strengthen their child’s academics.