Jonesboro Pre-K program suspended - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Jonesboro Pre-K program suspended

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JONESBORO, Ill. -- Dozens of Pre-K students may have to find a new school to attend this fall after the Jonesboro Elementary School District lost a grant that helped fund the program.

Dozens of schools around Illinois lost funding from the Early Childhood Block Grant, including schools in Southern Illinois like Jonesboro and Cobden Elementary.

"Without a pre-k program temporarily, it leaves us in chaos," said Dr. Keith Reinhardt, superintendent of Jonesboro Community Consolidated School District #43. "We've done everything we can to try to work with the legislators and work with the state board and go through the process to appeal and have our funding restored."

Now, Dr. Reinhardt and others are working to restore the funding. He recently drove up to the Illinois State Board of Education office in Springfield to deliver an appeal letter expressing concern.

Jonesboro Elementary received a score of 58 on their "Preschool For All" evaluation, 2 points short of 60 which would make them eligible to receive the funding. 

"We have to reassign teachers and the community is without preschool at this time," Dr. Reinhardt said. "We didn't shut the program down, we just suspended it until we know the outcome of this appeal."

He raised concerns about the evaluation process, "The deviation between scores are all over the place."

He said he couldn't understand why his school, which he says serves 57 percent low income students, didn't qualify for a "high needs priority boost."

So, we reached out to the Illinois State Board of Education and they told us 10 extra points were given out on the basis of the Illinois Early Childhood Asset Map, which considers factors like demographics and existing services in the area.

"This is an issue the State Board of Education cares deeply about, about the quality of services children are receiving in their early years, so while we didn't have enough funding to meet the needs of all of the programs and communities that applied for this grant this year, this is far from the end of the story," said Jackie Matthews, Illinois State Board of Education Director of Media and External Communications Jackie Matthews.

She said she could not comment on the status of the appeals. 

"This also raises the question of whether or not these services and these programs should be funded through a competitive grant or should it be something that's more formula based," Matthews said.

Meantime, Dr. Reinhardt hopes for the best with the outcome of the appeal.

"Our hope is and our desire is to have the pre-school program but we do need the funding to make it function," Dr. Reinhardt said.

Dr. Reinhardt said he should hear back by the end of August on how the Illinois State Board of Education will respond to his appeal. Without the funding, they'll have to find new ways to fund their pre-school program or send their students to others schools and programs in the area.

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