South Dakota is one of only five states in the country with no state-supported preschool program. The Sioux Falls Hope Coalition is a non-profit dedicated to giving all children access to preschool. Wednesday it announced the Boys and Girls Club of the Sioux Empire is joining a partnership to offer free preschool for 20 local students.
The Boys and Girls Club is the sixth organization to partner with the Sioux Falls Hope Coalition since it started two years ago. Rich Merkouris is the chair of the board for the coalition. He says those partnerships leverage existing programs to provide a free preschool education for qualifying families in the Sioux Falls area.
“We believe there’s between 275 and 325 kids each year that don’t have an opportunity to be ready for kindergarten, so we need 8-12 programs that say, ‘Hey, use our existing resources to meet the needs.’”
The coalition has a registration goal of 150 students for the 2019-2020 school year. Parents can call the group to determine if they meet income guidelines, and then students are assigned to one of the six locations based on their address.
Randell Beck is the executive director of the Sioux Falls Hope Coalition. He wants to provide the benefits of pre-k education to all students regardless of economic circumstances.
“All national studies show that children who go to preschool do better academically, they graduate at a higher rate, and they get better jobs. They stay out of trouble. They do better in life.”
Local preschool programs can cost $1,500-$1,700 a year. The Sioux Falls Hope Coalition offers a thousand-dollar reimbursement for each slot its partners offer.
Board Chair Rich Merkouris hopes to add two or three more partners to the coalition within the next year.
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