Recently, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) launched a series of pilot programs creating local leadership structures to increase early childhood education access and improve the quality of care available across the state. These pilot programs, called Ready Start Networks, or RSN, take a more collaborative approach to decision-making by establishing formal governance structures that support all early childhood care and education efforts in a community. In June this year, the Natchitoches Parish School Board, serving as the Natchitoches Parish lead agency for early childhood—and thereby representing private childcare, public childcare, and Head Start centers—submitted an application to pilot a local Ready Start Network.
Just this week Natchitoches was awarded the $100,000 grant to pilot a Ready Start Network. The grant will be used to plan and implement new and more robust strategies to provide more access to early childcare and improvement to our already significant Early Childhood Network.
“As a BESE representative, a native of Natchitoches, an economic developer, and a parent of young children—I am delighted to see such a strong [Ready Start Network] application from Natchitoches Parish and proud to see it funded. This grant will help strengthen and expand the work that already occurs in Natchitoches Parish through great partnerships.” Tony Davis, BESE District 4, Chair, Administration and Finance Committee
The Ready Start Network grant will be used to help increase awareness about the value quality early childhood education brings to this community, as well as help better communicate this value to local stakeholders and target audiences in order to increase understanding and awareness of the issues. Additionally, this grant will support formalizing the existing local partnerships into a more effective and sustainable coalition. Our Ready Start Network will develop new governance structures; assess local demand and capacity for early care and education; provide resources and training to teachers to improve classroom quality; implement new fundraising strategies; and share findings with state leaders to inform future policy making.