Free tuition for students who teach early ed

Free tuition for students who teach early ed

(Ohio) In a novel approach to two pressing problems, the city of Columbus has joined with Ohio State University to provide free college tuition to students willing to become early education teachers.

The $3.9 million program will be open to 100 teaching candidates willing to commit to working in the Columbus area for three years after graduation.

The scholarship program comes as national attention is increasingly focused on the benefits that investments in education services to toddlers and pre-kindergarteners can bring. At the same time, growing recognition that young people are turning away from the teaching profession, at least in part, for economic reasons has policy-makers looking to provide incentives to encourage participation.

Indeed, the newly-adopted Every Student Succeeds Act includes an update of a preschool development grant program along with a $250 million allocation – money that states can use in a variety of ways to support early learners.

“I think it’s a bold statement by a higher education institution on the importance of preparing young children with the best qualified, most skilled teachers they can possibly have,” said Eric Karolak, chief executive officer of Action for Children, which is a partner in the project.

“It is a significant thing that Ohio’s flagship institution – one of the finest research and education institutes in the country – is saying that early childhood education is so important that they’re putting a sizable investment into making sure that there are highly qualified, well-skilled individuals coming out of the early childhood workforce pipeline so our kids have the best start they can,” he said in an interview.

Long considered a fundamental building block in promoting student success, early education is strongly associated with higher test scores and lower rates of delinquency and dropout in future years. The nation’s most prominent preschool program, Head Start, was begun in the 1960s and has served more than 30 million children since.

Last year, Ohio State joined again with Action for Children in a separate effort to bring early education to preschoolers from low-income families. Using a $13.5 million federal grant, the coalition of social service agencies, community groups and academics sought to design a ‘wrap-around’ service model intended to support parents struggling to provide basic needs including health care, transportation and good nutrition.

The new ESSA Preschool Development Grants, to be jointly administered by the departments of Education and Health, will be competitively awarded and require states to show how they would use the money to improve “the school readiness of low-income and disadvantaged students.”

Other features of the grant program:

  • Requires 30 percent match.
  • Proposals should be aligned to more efficiently use existing federal, state, local and private resources including state advisory councils and the Child and Development Block Grant.
  • Calls for improvement in parental choice among existing programs.
  • Grants will not be subject to any federal mandates regarding specific requirements around standards, curriculum, and assessment, measures or indicators of quality, teacher and staff qualifications and salaries, program duration (length of day and year), or class sizes and student-teacher ratios.
  • States are encouraged to use school districts to carry out their strategic plan activities, but there is a limit of 60 percent of funding to support sub-grants within a state’s first year of their grant renewal, and 75 percent in the second year of renewal.