PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Thousands of Oregon families who expected their children to start tuition-free state-provided preschool this month remain in limbo because of staffing shortages that caused delays getting contracts to nearly 250 involved preschools.
The Early Learning Division, which has overseen the Preschool Promise program since its 2016 inception, took over contracting duties from the Oregon Department of Education this year and has struggled to get contracts inked. It has yet to send paperwork to most of the 248 preschools in the program that serves families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty line, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Tuesday.
Many facilities new to the program or those expanding services are hesitant to accept children enrolled in Preschool Promise until they have a signed contract and payment for the care is assured, the newspaper reported.
The agency now says the preschools chosen to serve an estimated 6,381 children must open no later than Oct. 30. It could not say when all contracts would be signed. The total number of children marks an expected increase of more than 2,000 slots from last year.
“It’s super hard on families,” said Molly Day, director of Early Learning Multnomah, one of 16 regional hubs that helps coordinate Preschool Promise enrollment. “If you’re counting on your child to be in school while you’re working, that’s very disruptive.”
Northeast Portland parent Melissa Laurie applied in March for her 3-year-old daughter, Frankie, to take part in Preschool Promise. Laurie gave up slots at other private preschools, which the state’s Employment-Related Day Care program would have helped pay for, because she expected Preschool Promise to begin in September.
“Besides the program not starting, my frustration is the lack...