Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald touted education as a candidate, arguing that good schooling is a key to better prepare citizens for the workforce and building a stronger economy.
Those efforts, he said, need to start with the youngest of citizens. Among FitzGerald"s campaign promises: Promote universal pre-kindergarten.
FitzGerald unveiled a two-year budget plan Oct. 11, 2011. It earmarks $1 million for expansion of universal pre-kindergarten in 2012.
Cuyahoga County Council, which is charged with approving the spending plan, has started hearings on the annual budget. The new two-year budget takes effect Jan. 1.
The county started the Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program in 2008.
The initiative, conducted by the private-public Invest in Children partnership, has been shown to help children succeed in school. The program serves 1,000 children at 10 sites in Cleveland, 10 sites in the eastern suburbs and four more sites in western suburbs..
FitzGerald promised to expand the program. Plans are to serve 12,000 children by 2019.
When he gave his state-of-the-county speech April 6, 2011, FitzGerald announced a plan to tap sales tax revenues to help fund expansion of the pre-K program. He has directed that about $3.5 million in sales taxes go to the program. He said then that matching donations would be sought from businesses and foundations.
By April 8, he had $1.3 million in commitments from the PNC and George Gund foundations.
"We know that when it comes time to allocate scarce resources we have to put those resources to the extent we can in the child"s first five years of life,” he said then.
A Case Western Reserve University study showed universal pre-kindergarten has made a positive impact on the children it serves, FitzGerald said. Studies on similar programs nationwide show a long-term economic return of between 4 percent and 16 percent.
Inclusion of funding for the pre-K program in the new budget plan shows more progress on this pledge. For now, PolitiFact Ohio can point the needle on the Fitz-O-Meter at In the Works.