Earlier this year, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish made it a priority to expand the county's successful Universal Prekindergarten program (UPK). He viewed its growth as a transformational action to improve the quality of life and future of our community. Through the leadership and generosity of organizations like The Cleveland Browns Foundation, PNC Bank and others, that vision is becoming a reality.
With the support of County Council, Executive Budish requested and secured $10 million in new public dollars to fund the expansion with the hope that private funders would support the vision and provide additional dollars. A fundraising effort led by Paul Clark of PNC Bank, reached out to foundations, corporations and private individuals and raised an additional $12.8 million in private funds to match the county's investment, including a generous gift of $1,000,000 from The Cleveland Browns Foundation. Those dollars allowed us to fund the opening of the Glenville Early Learning Center, a new preschool in one of Cleveland's most impoverished neighborhoods. In this center alone, we will be able to offer 40 spots to neighborhood children.
Cuyahoga County's early childhood public/private partnership known as Invest in Children, launched the county's nationally recognized Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program in 2007. The program has created a new gold standard of high-quality preschool, and is making a high quality experience accessible to low and moderate income families, while improving school readiness among disadvantaged children.
Other parts of the UPK expansion include a doubling of spots for children from the current 2000 to 4000, as well as enhancements of the program based upon the impressive evaluation results seen so far. Tuition assistance for families under 200 % of the federal poverty level will be increased from the current one-third of the parent fee to fully half.
In his State of the County address County Executive Armond Budish declared: "Cuyahoga County must be a place where our children start school ready to learn, graduate high school, graduate college and build their careers, businesses and live right here." A special thank you to The Cleveland Browns Foundation, and so many others, for agreeing.