- Four mobile preschool programs are operating in Colorado, using retrofitted passenger buses to bring early learning to sites, such as apartment complexes and mobile home parks in communities where children have little access to other options. One of these programs is now working with the Denver Public Schools to see if the concept can be expanded in that area, Chalkbeat reports.
- Such programs are rare, but they build on the older notions of providing access to services, such as book mobiles, mobile blood drives and food trucks. Because of their mobile nature, however, these programs have not been able earn a quality rating the way traditional preschool programs in the state do.
- Though the programs offer clear advantages to students in child care deserts, the cost of mobile preschool programs is high, ranging from $280,000 to $350,000 a year in donations or grant funds to operate, while reaching relatively few children. Some mobile preschools also have logistical and regulatory problems, a factor that contributed to shutting down a trial mobile preschool program in Oakland, California.
While this innovative solution has merit in providing access to preschool education in hard-to-access communities or child care deserts, it seems to be a less practical solution than simply expanding the number of preschool slots available in traditional preschools in most communities. Many school districts would welcome the expansion of preschool programs in their area, especially for low-income students who often come to school with limited vocabularies and exposure to educational concepts.
Securing funding for these slots has been the traditional challenge. Some states, including Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, offer universal preschool programs for 4-year-olds, but sometimes even those aren't available to every family that wants their child to attend. Other states offer more limited versions of preschool education. And in recent years, some other states have relied on federal dollars for special preschool programs or state dollars to expand preschool education. Some cities have increased sales taxes to expand preschool programs as well, but ironically, in some areas, where funding is available, enough preschoolers cannot be found,
School districts have the option of using Title I funds for preschool, but they can also form partnerships with local providers, including church-based programs, to encourage connections between early-childhood and elementary school teachers. Summer transition programs are another way to increase access to formal classroom opportunities for children not enrolled in preschool.