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Toledo City Council hears progress on free pre-kindergarten program

Hope Toledo President John C. Jones said the last few years of the program are highlighted by expansion, but future funding remains a question.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Hope Toledo President John C. Jones spoke before Toledo City Council's Finance Committee Thursday about the progress of the organization's free pre-kindergarten program.

Toledo City Council member Katie Moline and others on the finance committee continued to offer their support for free pre-K, but Moline said the issue is securing sustainable funding before American Rescue Plan Act dollars run out.

"The question is sustainability," Moline said. "How do we fund this program moving forward?"

Currently, all options are on the table. 

"Does it go through the schools?" Moline asked. "Are there other public funding mechanisms? Charitable contributions? Foundational funding? I think we're exploring, and they're exploring how they do that going forward."

Hope Toledo has been a driving force for the effort for years and Jones laid out the progress the program's pre-K partners have made since 202, including the improvement to kindergarten readiness scores.

"We've seen an increase in that number and that's a pretty significant deal understanding what that means within the larger educational space," Jones said.

Jones said higher scores translate to better grades and economic outcomes down the road. He also acknowledged the challenges facing the program, including transportation for families, retaining teachers and, most importantly, funding.

He the program's ARPA funds will run out sometime in the 2024-2025 range, so funding from anywhere is encouraged.

"We encourage all of that because every single penny supports our kids and helps them get off to a stronger start," Jones said.

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