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Columbus Mayor And Superintendent Announce Pre-K Expansion

Columbus city leaders say they'll spend millions of dollars on a starter education program. The funds will be used to expand pre-school programs for 4-year olds. The pre-K expansion makes good on a recommendation made last year by Mayor Michael Coleman's Education Commission. While a group of mothers and their pre-school children filled stands at a Franklinton Community House. Mayor Coleman made a case for universal pre-school. He says too many Columbus youngsters get to kindergarten unprepared to learn. And that unpreparedness takes a toll on academic achievement later. "We need our kids to be ready. Be ready for that third grade reading guarantee and to be ready for life. And, be ready to succeed," says Coleman. Third grade failures point to Pre-K needs This past school year, nearly 60 percent of Columbus school district third graders failed to score high enough on their state reading tests to be promoted to fourth grade. The district awaits the final results of a spring test. Superintendent Dan Good says those results show a need for more pre-school. "There is a positive correlation between kindergarten readiness and third grade achievement," says Good. Amber Thomas of Columbus says two of her six children enrolled in federally funded Head Start programs for pre-schoolers. She hopes the city funded programs will allow her other children to get the early start in the classroom. "It was a struggle to get in. There used to be long waits. Some programs would have a two year waits. We made whatever sacrifice necessary to get our children in," says Thomas. A costly investment Thomas says cost and available spots are the two biggest obstacles in getting her children enrolled in pre-K. The $5 million city program will fund pre-school tuition for an additional three hundred and fifty 4-year-olds. But, Coleman says the city will need help from state and federal government and non-profits to eventually offer pre-school to all of the city's 4-year-olds. "And to have affordable Pre-K for all the young people who need it right now, we can't afford it right now. So we start where can start and this is a good start, a good target and we'll figure out the rest as we go," says Coleman. Coleman says Early Start Columbus will be a combined effort of the city, Columbus City schools and nine providers of early childhood education.