Multnomah County Preschool for All January 2023 Progress Report
In 2020, Multnomah County voters affirmed their commitment to early childhood education by supporting the "Preschool for All" (PFA) initiative, a groundbreaking plan to provide free, inclusive, and culturally responsive preschool experiences for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the Oregon county by 2030.
Fast forward to 2023, and the strides made by PFA are commendable. Despite the challenges faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on early childhood education systems, PFA's progress report from January 2023 indicates a resilient and promising program.
In its inaugural year, PFA outperformed its targets, offering 718 preschool slots against an initial goal of 500. This impressive achievement signals the unwavering dedication to the program's plan to increase the number of available slots each year until achieving universal access in 2030.
Still, it's worth noting that a universal preschool system isn't merely about slot availability—it requires adequate classrooms, trained educators, and the necessary funding. To ensure fiscal stability, the county has adopted revenue smoothing, which involves saving more in the early years when the number of slots is lower. This strategy is crucial considering PFA is primarily funded with a marginal personal income tax on the highest income earners who live or work in Multnomah County.
However, PFA's budget isn't solely divided amongst children's slots—it's strategically invested in growing the entire system. A portion of the funds bolsters workforce development, preschool facilities, professional development, and early childhood mental health services—critical facets that will catalyze PFA's rapid expansion and ensure a strong foundation for future growth.
PFA's priority remains children who currently face obstacles to early learning, including children of color, those who speak languages other than English, children with developmental delays or disabilities, those living in or at risk of placement in foster care, children from low-income families, and children experiencing homelessness.
Looking ahead, it's anticipated there will be over 1,400 PFA slots for the 2023-24 preschool year—an ambitious target reflecting the dedication of Multnomah County to providing quality early education for all its children. This progressive and responsible approach promises a brighter future for the youngest residents of the county.
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