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HUD secretary praises PRE4CLE partnership


A U.S. Cabinet secretary praised CMSD and partners Tuesday for launching a communitywide effort to enroll more children in high-quality preschool.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said Cleveland is among a group of cities that are acting on their own instead of waiting for the federal government to help expand access.

CMSD and other high-quality providers linked hands this year in PRE4CLE. The network has already added 335 slots – 260 of those from the District – and seeks to create 2,000 by 2016.

“America is watching Cleveland and communities like it that are taking bold steps in early childhood education,” Castro said during a news conference at the Bingham Early Learning Center on Central Avenue.

Castro and Roberto Rodriguez, a special assistant to President Obama on education, stopped in Cleveland to build awareness in advance of a White House summit on early childhood that is scheduled for December.

The two men also appeared at a private roundtable discussion at the Idea Center on Playhouse Square. The guest list included nearly 75 leaders from business, philanthropy and government.

Castro, who was named HUD secretary in July, led a preschool expansion as mayor of San Antonio. He applauded the collaboration at the heart of PRE4CLE and challenged cities across Ohio and the country to begin similar programs.

“We know, through high-quality preschool, young folks are put on a more positive trajectory for life,” he said. “The research shows, if you have a dollar to spend in education, that dollar is best spent on high-quality preschool.”

The location chosen for the news conference symbolizes cooperation.

The highly rated Bingham Early Learning Center, run by the Centers for Families and Children, is part of a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority complex and draws many children from the surrounding units.

The property is in a HUD Choice Neighborhood, where the federal agency has provided money to connect housing improvements with schools, other services and jobs.

Expanded preschool is part of The Cleveland Plan, a state-approved blueprint for reform. Schools CEO Eric Gordon said at the news conference that the community has to “move from plan to action quickly” with preschool so it can multiply results like those achieved at Bingham.
According to the Center on Urban Poverty at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland had 3,530 seats in high-quality preschools last year, but only 2,857 were filled. That was with children ages 3 to 5. The city had more than 13,000 children in that age group.

Overseen by a group called the Cleveland Early Childhood Compact, PRE4CLE markets programs that score well on the standards set by Ohio's Step Up to Quality program. 

PRE4CLE will help preschools gain certification as high-quality providers and hopes to eventually assist with paying for transportation and tuition, barriers that can prevent families from taking advantage of preschool. CMSD offers prekindergarten for free.
CMSD committed $2.5 million toward the $15 million PRE4CLE projected it would need in its first year. The 260 prekindergarten seats that CMSD added this year raised the District’s total by 25 percent, to 1,020.