Meyer Memorial Trust gives $85,000 to County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson's effort to increase access to early education.

MULTCO PHOTO: MOTOYA NAKAMURA - Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson listens to community members at a Preschool For All meeting in May of this year. New money will boost the effort to bring Preschool for All to Multnomah County, elected leaders say.

The Meyer Memorial Trust has granted $85,000 to the initiative that aims at universal enrollment in preschool for all local three- and four-year-olds. That grant money is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall proposal's budget, which is priced at $150 million to $250 million a year and will require voters to approve some sort of fundraising mechanism.

The effort has been largely spearheaded by Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.

"Every child deserves the chance to succeed," the commissioner said. "But too many of our children are falling behind because they don't have access to high quality preschool. Creating preschool options that give every child an equal start is simply one of the best investments we can make as a community."

The Meyer Memorial Trust funds will be used to further study and collect feedback on the recommendations of the county's Preschool for All taskforce, which first convened in 2018 and issued an advisory report in July of this year.

Participants in the committee included 30 elected leaders, 100 community members and 52 organizations. They concluded that Multnomah County will need to build new preschools and rehab existing ones, as well as create a network of home-based programs.

Going forward, Vega Pederson says parents, preschool teachers and local cultural organizations will be surveyed in order to address disparities in preschool access. Right now, just 15% of the county's tykes have access to government-funded preschool, and many other families cannot afford the roughly $1,000 a month cost for private early education.

"We are excited to provide support for this equity-driven early childhood work, and for the inclusion of families and preschool providers of color in further development of the initiative," said Matt Morton with Meyer Memorial Trust.

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