South Bend looks to expand access to pre-K

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – South Bend is continuing the push for pre-K.

“The basic idea is to see what we can do as a city to make sure that there is more capacity for quality pre-K education,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “We want to double down on seeing what we can do locally, regardless of what the state will do.”

Back in June, the state expanded its pre-K pilot to 15 more counties including St. Joseph.

That meant South Bend would get a piece of an additional $9 million in investment from the state.

Investment, groups like Ready to Grow St. Joe have been advocating for years.

“It’s really exciting to see some combine efforts here to make sure early childhood access, especially in a high quality setting is more accessible to our families living here,” said Emily Rupchock, coordinator of Ready to Grow St. Joe.

The need in this county is there.

According to the organization, Indiana ranks second to last out of the 44 states in the country that offer state-funded pre-K.

And only 20 counties now have accesses to Indiana’s state-funded pilot.

Head Start, the leader in this county for early education, has been seeing a waitlist for its program.

Supporters say, they can use some help.

“It’s going to take a lot more investment from the private sector, from our local businesses getting invested and other advocates locally who can make sure they’re apart of this story with us,” said Rupchock.

The city committed to being an advocate Wednesday by putting aside $100,000 in the 2018 budget.

“We’ve been at the table and in some cases, we’ve set the table for those conversations, we’ll continue to do that going forward,” said Mayor Buttigieg.

The mayor is working with the council and other groups to flesh out how that investment will be utilized.


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