Kaiser Family Foundation boosts early childhood education programs

 Early childhood education programs in Oklahoma received a major boost with a $22 million grant from the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) to Tulsa’s Community Action Project (CAP). Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi participated in announcement of the grant at the CAP’s early childhood facility at McClure in the Tulsa school district.

The grant comes as the state Education Department in Oklahoma City seeks program development funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

CAP’s vision, according to a release from the project, is “to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty by improving the prospects of long-term economic success for very young, low-income children, their families, and the communities in which they live.” CAP serves more than 2,000 of Tulsa’s low-income children in 13 early childhood centers across Tulsa County.

“Voluntary early childhood education programs can be an important part of efforts to help children develop the skills they need to become successful students,” said Barresi. “CAP is a provider of the kinds of high-quality early childhood education programs that Oklahoma is known for. I am proud to be here today to recognize the hard work that made this day possible.”

Barresi supports private funding to develop the Sooner State’s early childhood programs. She has also guided a process, authorized by Gov. Mary Fallin, seeking a major grant from the Obama Administration for the “Race to the Top” early learning challenge.

The latest private grant from the Kaiser foundation supports a match for the overall state Pilot Program which CAP operates on behalf of the state Education Department. In addition to 1,692 children CAP serves, Tulsa partners serve 631 children and statewide partners serve 285 children, for a total of 2,608.

CAP and its partners provide what is described as “a high-quality program which includes year-round programming and bachelor-degreed teachers” who, CAP says, “utilize evidence-based curriculum to ensure school readiness. CAP also provides wrap-around services for children and their families, including health and nutrition services, disabilities support and parenting skills training.

“We are honored to receive this generous grant from George Kaiser Family Foundation, which will support the growth of our early childhood education programs,” said Steven Dow, executive director of CAP.

The foundation has been a strong supporter of CAP’s early education initiatives, having contributed more than $92 million since 2004. CAP’s is consistent with the foundation’s goal of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

“We know that the earliest years of a child’s life are critical to their future success. Investing in the first five years of a child’s life is the best investment we can make as a society,” said Ken Levit, executive director the GKFF.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty through investments in early childhood education, community health, social services and civic enhancement.