Future of North Greene early childhood education program in jeopardy

By Gary Scott on July 27, 2018 at 9:28am

A Greene County educational program is in need of more funding by the end of August to stay afloat as money from the state remains uncertain.

The North Greene Bright Futures program, in its 20th year, is one of 86 early childhood educational programs that did not receive state funds despite a $50 million increase in state funding for Fiscal Year 2019. Of those 86 early educational programs that missed the cut, North Greene Bright Futures received the highest score in the grant evaluation process, which considers the degree of need and the overall operation of the program.

Joining WLDS’ “What’s On Your Mind” program yesterday was Program Director Kellie Heberling, Lead Parent Educator Amanda Goben and fellow Parent Educator Emily Custer. As for what North Greene Bright Futures offers to Greene County youth, Custer explains the program’s main function.

“We work with expecting mothers and kids from birth to age three. We do developmental screenings, and the home visits will bring activities to do with the parents to encourage the parent-child involvement, that interaction is very important. The curriculum we use is ‘Parents As Teachers,’ they’re based out of St. Louis, and their belief is that parents are the first and best teachers for a child. And if you’re a first-time parent, we all know there are some challenges with that,” Custer says.

According to Superintendent of the North Greene School District Mark Scott, Bright Futures’ budget request for Fiscal Year 19 was for just under $525-thousand dollars ($523,644), but was later adjusted down to a request of slightly more than $450-thousand dollars ($451,750) – a full $40,000 less than the program received in the previous fiscal year. Scott says that if the program does secure funding from the available $20 million in additional state funds, the program is likely to receive around $45-hundred dollars per family. Using that estimate produces a total of slightly more than $337-thousand dollars, nearly $115-thousand dollars below the requested amount.

Custer discusses the grant proposal process, and goes over the potential ramifications if that proposal isn’t granted.

“The proposal that we had written was for a five-year grant. If we do not receive the money, there will not be a program for at least five years, we’re not able to write another grant for about six years. It was kind of a shock when we didn’t receive our initial funding for the next five years, not just next year, because that’s never happened before, and we’ve been in place for twenty years,” Custer explains.

She says that the Bright Futures program is still in need of funding. Overall, Custer says their main concern is finding a way to continue providing education to area children.

The North Greene Bright Futures program is the only program of its kind within a 30-mile radius. Click here to learn more about the early childhood program.