July 27, 2022

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Suzetta Creech, 859-940-1790

[wyde_heading subheading_tag=”h3″ style=”2″ title=”Owensboro’s early childhood initiative is model for how other communities can tackle education issues” animation=”slideInLeft”]

OWENSBORO, Ky. — Community members of Owensboro confronted three alarming statistics:

  1. 49% of students are not kindergarten ready as reported by the Brigance screener in 2019-2020.
  2. 9% of students failed to reach reading proficiency by 3rd grade as reported by 2018-2019 K-PREP scores.
  3. Only 20% of children under the age of five have access to early childhood education services.

Education, business, and community leaders rallied around those challenges and recently created a multi-year plan to improve those education results. The Prichard Committee, a statewide education organization, believes other communities can create their own plan to make measurable changes in education.

“It’s a recurring problem that all Kentucky communities face—now more than ever,” said Brigitte Blom, President and CEO of the Prichard Committee. “Owensboro decided it was time to do something different. It is model that all Kentucky communities can adopt. Owensboro chose to attack early childhood education, but communities could take on any education challenge—from third grade reading levels to post-secondary attainment.”

Even pre-COVID, the early childhood education numbers were alarming: 50 percent of Kentucky children entered kindergarten not ready to learn. More than 50 percent lived in child-care deserts. These statistics also have economic repercussions: The lack of high-quality and affordable early childhood education for working Kentucky families accounts for $573 million in lost earnings, business productivity, and tax revenue.

In Owensboro, nonprofits, education, business, and community leaders came together to take a new hyper-local approach to implement a strategy for students and families. They formed a group called the Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development, which has taken many steps, including:

  • Realizing the issue is the responsibility not just of the school district, but that the community has a role to play.
  • Researching and analyzing the issue – gaps, services that exist.
  • Creating a plan for closing gaps and realizing results over a finite period.
  • Understanding that the solution would be a holistic, systemic, multi-year approach.
  • Convening a group that included both school superintendents, university presidents, the chamber of commerce and community-building organizations through the leadership of the Public Life Foundation, with the assistance of the Prichard Committee.

Here is what the partnership is going to do through its multi-year plan:

  • Launch a public advocacy campaign to encourage communitywide support of quality early childhood education.
  • Implement early childhood education talent development and retention strategies to meet early childhood education workforce needs.
  • Implement employee-based child-care partnerships among employers and child care centers.
  • Identify and enroll all families eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) subsidy and sustain CCAP eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level and make all children within 200% of the federal poverty level eligible for public preschool.
  • Raise the quality of all child care centers to 3 STARS or above and clear the Head Start, preschool and child care waiting lists for all children under age 5.
  • Utilize data to monitor for continuous improvement of educational outcomes for children enrolled in early childhood education programs.
  • Report to the community annually on its progress.

“There is a strong intersection at play for us: the issues bubbling up in the community, our history of bringing people together to solve problems, and the board’s passion around early childhood education. Initiating and supporting the work of this partnership is a perfect fit for us,” said Bruce Hager, chair of the Public Life Foundation of Owensboro.

The Prichard Committee will be supporting and following this work during a 5-year period.

To read the report from the Greater Owensboro Partnership for Early Development, visit: https://www.prichardcommittee.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/OwensboroECEReportFinal.pdf


The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky – early childhood through postsecondary.


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