We know that high quality pre-kindergarten programs can improve educational achievement over the long run. In 2013, President Obama included this as a priority in his State of the Union address. And recently Cleveland and the inner ring suburb school districts have been working to improve local pre-k options for children. Using its CHILD integrated data system, the Poverty Center gathered information on the region’s children who could be served by pre-k, the challenges these children face, the current availability of quality pre-k programs, and current pre-k enrollment numbers in the sixteen first-ring suburban school districts.
The inner ring school district profile project was funded by the Educational Services Center of Cuyahoga County for their First Ring Superintendents Collaborative. Poverty Center researchers calculated the number of children 0-5 and of pre-school age in each suburb, and the number of those children who had adverse birth outcomes (like being born with low birthweight), received public assistance, had involvement with the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), had high blood-lead levels, as well as the mother’s education level and age, and whether they used early childhood services like home visits, and if and where they redeemed child care subsidies.
- The inner ring suburban school districts are home to almost 37,000 children under the age of six, about 14,000 of which are of preschool age (3, 4, and 5 year old children not yet in kindergarten). The size of the early childhood population varies across inner-ring school districts; some have as many as 7,200 children.
- Districts face a variety of challenges stemming from the risk profiles of their youngest students. In all inner ring suburban school districts, children and families are struggling with issues associated with poverty including poor birth outcomes (like low birth weight), child neglect, food insecurity, and lead poisoning. In many districts, more than 10% of children have had a report of abuse or neglect to child welfare within their first two years of life and in districts with older housing stock, more than half of the early childhood population has had elevated lead levels detected in their blood before age two.
- A variety of early childhood services are available to families, particularly low income families, in Cuyahoga County. Districts with greater need show higher rates of service receipt; however, there are likely many families who are eligible for services who are not receiving them.
- Across districts, about 50% of families receiving a child care subsidy go to a provider in their district, but many families travel to surrounding communities for child care.
- There are a total of 7,115 full-day and 5,518 part-day preschool slots in inner-ring districts with significant variability across school districts in regard to the capacity and quality of slots available for 3, 4, and 5-year olds, not yet in kindergarten. Approximately 17% of full-day and 18% of part-day slots are rated as high quality; however, some districts have no high quality slots for preschool aged children in their community.
- The enrollment rates for full-day and part-day preschool slots are variable across inner ring school districts likely reflecting the unique demand for early care and education in each community. Across districts, 90% of part-day slots are full compared to 67% of full-day slots. In districts with high quality preschool slots, the enrollment rate for high quality slots is generally slightly higher than for lower quality or unrated slots.