PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — September is more than halfway over, but families in Oregon’s Preschool Promise Program are still waiting for their kids to start classes.
Short staffing and a months-delayed process is causing the problem, but the division did report huge improvements in the last 24 hours.
Delorie Finch, owner of The Finch Academy, takes pride in caring for kids before they go to school. But there are only 10 kids enrolled in her class right now as she waits for 30 others who are waiting due to the application process for the Preschool Promise Program, even though Finch’s school has been in the program before.
“I do this because I feel there is a need for this and I’ve worked with children since my very first job,” Finch said. “We do need their help and we won’t be able to function if we don’t get the finances we need.”
The program gives vouchers to families to find preschools and contract slots through providers to ensure access to families and ensure providers can stay open, according to Alyssa Chatterjee, Director of Early Learning Division.
Short staffing, the departure of key positions and a cumbersome process where providers who had been approved in previous years have to apply again have slowed down the process.
Contracts have also been delayed in getting money to preschool providers after the legislature approved funding in the spring — applications only opened on June 21.
“Our ideal timeline is some version of an application open by February and we would know who those awardees are by March or April,” Chatterjee said.
Instead, awardees signed contracts starting Tuesday. The department has processed around 120 contracts since then, and about 45 remain. Providers like Finch are still trying to get by until those students are enrolled.
“I like a challenge and it has been challenging but quitting is not an option, failure is not an option and we’re here to help the children and that’s what we plan on doing,” Finch said.