Acelero Learning Wisconsin awarded $4.7 million in Early Head Start expansion funds

Acelero Learning Wisconsin has been awarded $4.7 million – confirm in funding for a five-year grant in order to add 80 new Early Head Start students to the program, including 24 slots for infants and toddlers in Racine. The Acelero Learning Wisconsin (ALW) delegate program operates eight Head Start centers in Milwaukee County and four in Racine County, serving many of the highest need communities in the state of Wisconsin.  The organization now serves 553 Head Start children and 24 Early Head Start children in Racine, and an additional 615 Head Start children and 112 Early Head Start children in Milwaukee. As ALW staff work with low income families in these communities, they experience daily that the need for high quality infant and toddler care is overwhelming.  In comparison, four year old children in Racine have access to universal Pre-K and three year old children have access to more than 500 Head Start slots. Even still, there are only 24 Early Head Start slots funded in Racine – despite the fact that Racine County has the fourth highest population of families in poverty out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

The shortage of high-quality early childhood services is particularly vexing for Racine. According to 2015 Census estimates, 20.6% of children under five years old in Racine County live in poverty. Currently, there are far more income-eligible families for EHS than there are quality programs available to serve them. The only EHS services currently available in Racine are the 24 existing slots currently provided at Acelero Learning Wisconsin’s Next Generation Now building – this number will expand to 48 with the new funding available in this grant.

Early Head Start is a vibrant and effective program for infants and toddlers serving more than 147,000 young children across the nation. The program offers comprehensive services to children and families, including early education, family engagement initiatives, health, mental health, nutrition and oral health services. Acelero Learning considers it imperative to meet the growing demand for Early Head Start services and add much-needed supply to the universe of higher quality infant/toddler care in Racine.

In order to support this grant, ALWI has partnered with community partners, leaders, and key partners to expand high-quality Early Head Start services. Senator Tammy Baldwin has praised the coming expansion: “We have a long tradition of supporting early childhood education in Wisconsin, and I’m proud to see this new investment in our youngest Wisconsinites. Head Start and Early Head Start programs make long-lasting differences in the lives of so many families. This grant funding will help Acelero Learning build on their work of putting Wisconsin children on a path to success."

Local and national leaders agreed on the importance of Acelero Learning’s expansion to serve additional low-income children.  “Acelero Learning exemplifies Head Start and Early Head Start's role as the nation's laboratory for early childhood innovation,” said Yasmina Vinci, National Head Start Association (NHSA) Executive Director. “They are problem solvers, they have generated tremendous child outcome gains, and they recognize the need to expand infant and toddler options for low income children.  I am delighted that they will be serving more children through Early Head Start expansion."

Margie Carrington, Executive Director of Health & Nutrition Services of Racine, also expressed enthusiasm for the expansion of this program. “One of the explicit goals of the Racine WIC programs is to ensure the health and wellness of children from birth to five. We know that Acelero Learning Wisconsin shares this vision and we are excited to work together to ensure that every child in Racine enters school ready to learn and succeed.”

The grant will be supplemented with $394,692 in one-time start-up funds to support the purchase of new classroom supplies and curriculum materials, technology to support planning, assessment, and reflective coaching, needed health screening equipment, and costs related to licensing and required background checks for new staff hired in both Milwaukee and Racine.

The grant was awarded under the leadership of Sarah Barton, Executive Director of the ALW program. “Since opening the first Early Head Start classrooms in Racine in 2015, the waiting list for a space in the program has grown to more than double our current capacity. We are anxious to start serving these infants and toddlers and supporting their families to ensure more children in Racine have access to the world class early education they deserve.”  Ms. Barton has led the ALW program as Executive Director since 2015.

Acelero’s newly expanded program offers a powerful set of services to Early Head Start families, including a unique approach to family engagement that extends classroom learning into the home in fun and age-appropriate ways, as well as a content-rich curriculum specifically designed for infants and toddlers. Acelero Learning programs have been nationally recognized for innovation and excellence, and the Racine expansion will allow the program to bring those services to an even wider network of children and families in the area.

For additional information about this expansion and the Acelero Learning program, please contact Katie Bromberek, Executive Assistant at kbromberek@acelero.net.