Preschool for All enrollment is now open in Multnomah County for next school year. There are over 670 slots available for any child who will turn 3 or 4 years old by Sept. 1, 2022.
“We will be partnering with 36 preschool programs at 48 different locations across the county this fall,” wrote Multnomah County Preschool and Early Learning Division director Leslee Barnes in an April 2022 newsletter. “These sites will host over 675 slots next year.”
The Preschool for All program is aimed at addressing a lack of child care openings — a statewide problem that preceded COVID-19, according to research by Oregon State University. Researchers and state officials say the shortages got worse during the pandemic.
Some of the Multnomah County programs are open for the full year, others just for the school year, with various hours offered. All programs are free.
Families with the least access to preschool will be prioritized for spots, including families of color, children with disabilities, kids living in foster care, and those from families affected by homelessness or incarceration.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury highlighted the program during her 2022 State of the County address Wednesday.
“We are on track to serve thousands more of our kids in the coming years,” Kafoury said.
“By lifting one of their heaviest financial burdens, parents and families will be better able to meet their basic needs. Fewer caregivers will face the unfair choice between working or staying at home to take care of children. And preschool educators will receive a living wage that reflects the trust we place in them to care for our children during such a formative time.”
Multnomah County voters approved the Preschool for All measure in November 2020, creating a program to tax high income earners to fund an expansion of early education opportunities.
The county’s goal is to provide high-quality preschool for anyone who needs it, with more slots available every year.
The enrollment opening of Preschool for All offers a bright spot for families of young kids, amid a challenging period for childcare in Oregon. A year ago, the Oregon Early Learning Division released a report showing nearly half of all centers experienced a closure during the first year of the pandemic, with more than half of families with young children experiencing disruptions.