/ Modified apr 12, 2019 4:35 p.m.

Proposal Pushes for Expanded Access to Preschool in Pima County

Supporters want the county to fund scholarships for low-income families.

A newly proposed program in Pima County would eventually help thousands of children attend quality preschools.

The Pima County Preschool Investment Program (PCPIP) would offer full scholarships for all children ages three and four whose families fall under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For example, a family of four earning less than $50,000 a year would qualify. Arizona 360 learned more about the program from the Southern Arizona Leadership Council's Steve Lynn and Strong Start Tucson's Penelope Jacks.

"There's about 27,000 3- and 4-year-olds in Pima County. Half of those kids live under the 200 percent poverty level," Jacks said. "Of that half, 70 percent are children of color. It's children who are at risk who benefit most from high quality preschool."

Supporters say once the program is fully funded it could potentially serve more than 10,000 children. To start, they're asking the Pima County Board of Supervisors to allocate an initial $5 million in its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

"Out of the existing county budget, which is over a billion dollars, we're asking the county to start with a very modest amount that would work for a couple of hundred of these children to start with," Lynn said. "We want to prove that this can happen at scale so it means that if we're successful we can go back to the county for multiple-year funding and increases in funding."

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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