Frequently Asked Questions
What is this group doing?
We are working to create a collective plan to increase access to affordable, high quality preschool for three- and four-year-olds in Asheville and Buncombe County, with a priority on children and families who are currently experiencing the greatest barriers to access.
Our ultimate vision to ensure that every child age birth to five in Asheville and Buncombe County has access to high-quality, affordable early care and education. Within that age span, we believe that a preschool effort is currently the most fiscally viable, and is a logical “next step upstream” from existing kindergarten systems. By producing more access to high-quality preschool, we also will assure seats for future preschoolers as 0-3 investments continue to gain traction. The work to expand preschool is our pilot effort. As we achieve success, we will build on this work to support families with children ages birth to three.
Where did this idea come from?
We were inspired by the work if PRE4CLE in Cleveland, Ohio, which created a plan to provide accessible, affordable, high-quality pre-K for every 3- and 4-year-old in that city. It’s been hailed as a national model. We believe that the approach used in Cleveland and other places can also work here, tailored to the specific needs, assets and values of Asheville and Buncombe County — particularly our shared value of ensuring the best short- and long-term positive results for our children.
Who owns this work?
We all do. Our planning process includes public and private partners at every level, family and community engagement, and lots of participation from preschool providers, researchers, funders – everyone! The plan we develop will be no different. Providing high-quality preschool will be a cooperative community effort, not the role of any one entity.
Who’s leading this work?
The planning process is led by a planning team of 25 community members, and chaired by community volunteer Jennie Eblen. Buncombe for Children (BPFC) and Children First/Communities in Schools have served as convenors for this process, and BPFC serves as fiscal agent. Planning team members were identified because of their knowledge of preschool systems, finance, or regulations and standards. The team includes a diverse group of grassroots and grasstops community leaders who will help set the direction of our effort for the short and long term. Members of this group either lead or are a part of organizations whose missions are directly related to early childhood or who have indicated that early childhood as a priority relative to their strategic vision or programmatic work. A list of core team members is available on the Leadership page of this site.
What is the process?
We’re pulling in participants from all parts of the community to look at what it takes to create a voluntary system that’s aligned and focused on high-quality preschool for all kids. We currently have five workgroups that are exploring: 1) Quality Model Design; 2) Workforce/Professional Development; 3) Financing; 4) Research; and 5) Communications and Outreach. These workgroups include individuals with particular issue area expertise (including current childcare/preschool providers) or interest that will help advise the planning team on specific elements and strategic direction that will be in the final plan. Workgroups will each have a chairperson who will determine when and how often a workgroup meets. Workgroups will focus on questions, such as: What kind of support do preschool teachers need to engage in professional development? What are the transportation needs surrounding preschool? What do families need to know and how do we reach them? How can we attract more public and private funding from federal, state and local sources? And much more… The workgroup topics will be determined by the needs surrounding preschool in Asheville and Buncombe County. Once the workgroups have completed their findings and recommendations, we’ll incorporate them into one comprehensive plan.
Who can serve on workgroups?
The workgroups have already begun their discussions. However, anyone who has an interest in or knowledge to share about a workgroup topic is welcome to take part.
How long will all this take?
The work will take place in four phases.
Phase 1: Process Design (COMPLETED)- We developed our planning process, created structure for forward movement, and received consulting expertise. We emerged with a clear process and defined structure including an overarching steering committee, a larger collaborative planning team, and five work groups.
Phase 2: Plan Assembly (July 2016-May 2017) - We are researching options for model design, workforce, financing and communications. We are considering options and evaluating their workability in Asheville-Buncombe. At the end of this phase, we will produce our draft plan for expanding quality preschool to every 3- and 4-year-old in Asheville-Buncombe.
Phase 3: Endorsement (June 2017-December 2017 [tentative])- We will secure community buy-in, revise our plan with community feedback, and begin to pursue financial support for implementation. By the end of this phase, we will have a revised plan that has broad community support and strategies for pursuing implementation funding.
Phase 4: Implementation (2018 and ongoing) - We will conduct initial implementation and expand upon it, as well as continue ongoing sustainability work. As this phase progresses, first-priority plan recommendations will be in place and future funding will be secured.
So, are you creating new preschools?
No. Although the planning process might reveal a need for new preschools, our planning committee will look for areas of need throughout Buncombe County, identify the programs and organizations that already are providing quality services to preschool-age children, identify where the gaps are and brainstorm ways to fill those gaps using the assets we already have and some that we may be able to secure. A recommendation for new preschools in underserved areas might be part of the plan, but it’s too early to say just yet. Our planning process includes the knowledge and experience of preschool providers in both the public and private sectors, and they will be critical in meeting preschool needs.
Why the focus on “high quality” and how do you define that?
Research shows that there is a big difference between early care and high-quality early care. Children who attend lower-quality programs don’t show as many positive gains as those in high-quality programs. The quality model design workgroup is looking at the question of quality and how we can better define and support it. We do believe that quality should include a “whole child” approach and ensure students are ready to succeed in kindergarten.
Will you start telling preschool providers how to do their jobs or try to take money away from existing programs?
Absolutely not. Participation in the planning collaborative is completely voluntary, and participation in the plan’s implementation will be as well. We believe that quality preschool is important for our entire community, and that everyone has a role to play. We will look for ways to help providers improve quality if they are interested in doing so.
How are we going to pay for all this?
Good question. The early planning steps have been supported by a grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and funds from the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and individual donors. We are currently in the process of seeking funding support for the balance of the planning process. The plan itself will contain recommendations for ensuring financial sustainability as the plan is implemented.
Is this Universal Pre-K?
NO. We consider universal pre-k to be completely publicly funded and provided only as a government service. While public funding and providers will play a key role in expanding access for 3- and 4-year-olds, we think it’s important to support a range of options – both public and private – for parents who are choosing a preschool. Our goal is to make sure those options are aligned in terms of accessibility, affordability, quality and a smooth transition into kindergarten.
Where can I learn more and keep up with the progress?
If you have specific questions or would like to be part of a workgroup, please contact chair Jennie Eblen, firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for email updates on our Contact page.