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Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg proposes plans for universal pre-K program

Mayor Craig Greenberg speaking to preschoolers at University of Louisville's Early Learning Campus.
Giselle Rhoden
Preschool students gave Mayor Craig Greenberg a plush cardinal bird Tuesday.

Mayor Craig Greenberg proposed a plan Tuesday to provide pre-K programs to all 4-year-olds in Louisville.

Alongside a group of city leaders, early learning advocates and preschool students, Mayor Craig Greenberg unveiled Thrive by 5 Louisville, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a pathway to universal pre-K in Jefferson County.

The five-year pathway would operate in three phases, Greenberg said during a news conference Tuesday.

“Our goal is that every Louisville family with a 3- or 4-year-old child will have the option to send their child to free quality pre-K, whatever your income, wherever you live in Jefferson County,” he said.

Phase one of the proposal would hire more early learning educators and staff. These professionals would work at new and existing child care facilities.

The first two years of this phase would provide wage supplementation to its early childhood educators, according to the Mayor’s Office press secretary, Kevin Trager.

This comes amid a statewide teacher shortage due to inadequate pay and burnout. A 2023 study shows, 10.9% of educators are leaving their profession in comparison to the 8.9% average from previous years.

Thrive by 5 board chair Ashley Novak Butler said educators are pivotal to the success of pre-K for all.

“Our children, families, educators and the community of Early Learning Centers are a precious resource in this community,” Butler said, “and they deserve a huge level of investment, and even more. And now is the time.”

The second phase would implement financial assistance programs to families who have young children and earn $93,600 or less annually. Parents interested in the program would apply online, and Thrive by 5 staff would determine and review their eligibility.

Approved child care assistance funds would be paid directly to providers, from public and private donations, grants and public money, officials said in a news release.

Greenberg said Tuesday that he plans to include funding for Thrive by 5 in his budget proposal to Louisville Metro Council next month.

This echoes a previous effort by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear last year to include universal pre-K in the state budget; Kentucky House Republicans dismissed his request earlier this year.

The final phase of the project would expand financial assistance eligibility to all interested families.

Greenberg’s five-year plan was developed by the Mayor’s Early Learning Action Group, composed of 23 early childhood professionals and community members.

The group spent the last year mapping out the future of early learning programs, Greenberg said.

“It's about the faces of our future, the bright eyes and eager minds of the children who will one day be in the same seats, leading our community,” said Louisville Metro Council Member and group member Phillip Baker, a District 6 Democrat. “It's about giving each and every one of them the chance to reach their full potential, regardless of their ZIP code they were born into."

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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