Gov. wants cheaper preschool for some KY kids

FRANKFORT, KY (FOX19) - Gov. Steve Beshear is pushing for Kentucky to expand family financial assistance for its early childhood education efforts.

The governor called for raising the eligibility level for 4-year-olds in families whose income is at or below 160 percent of poverty level in Fiscal Year 2014 and increasing it to 200 percent by the end of his term.

The expansion is part of the Governor's biennial budget proposal now before the General Assembly.

"Too many children in Kentucky don't get off to a good start in school. They start out behind, and they never catch up," said Gov. Beshear. "Expanding preschool will directly affect those children who need help the most.  Access to preschool services will prepare them for kindergarten, and they will more likely be engaged throughout their school careers to become productive adults."

Kentucky currently provides funding to attend preschool for 4-year-old children in families whose income is at or below 150 percent of poverty level, and fully funds preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds with certain disabilities.

Research suggests that each dollar invested on pre-kindergarten programs returns $60 to $300 over a child's lifetime.

The governor's proposed expansion to 160 percent would cost $15 million, allowing 4,430 more Kentucky children to participate -- an increase of 18 percent.

"By enhancing early childhood development, we actually improve a child's ability to learn at later stages," said Terry Tolan, executive director of the Governor's Office of Early Childhood. "It is without a doubt the best investment the Commonwealth can make."