Recognizing the importance of early learning opportunities, GKFF has invested heavily in expanding the availability of high-quality, very early childhood education for low-income children in Tulsa County. GKFF supports a number of programs and initiatives focused on early childhood learning, including:
Tulsa Educare serves 536 low-income children (who meet the federal poverty guideline) in three state-of-the-art community centers. Tulsa Educare provides a range of educational and family engagement opportunities for parents and children six weeks through five years of age. Opened in 2006, Tulsa Educare 1 is located alongside Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, while Tulsa Educare 2, opened in 2010, is adjacent to Hawthorne Elementary School in north Tulsa. In August of 2012, Tulsa Educare 3 opened across from Whitney Middle School near the intersection of 21st and Sheridan. Co-location with public schools is important and intentional, sending the clear message that learning begins at birth.
Tulsa Educare is a flagship program – this best practice model strives to illustrate the impact that high-quality early education can have on children’s lives. In a post-welfare reform society where half of all families formerly receiving direct cash assistance to stay home with their children have now joined the workforce, the need for appropriate childcare is vital. Tulsa Educare involves many community partners to provide an array of services for families including: health, mental health, GED classes and workforce training.
Visit the Tulsa Educare website!
Oklahoma Early Childhood Program
In its seventh program year in 2012, the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program (formerly called the State Pilot Project - SPP) serves roughly 2,000 children from birth through three years of age in 18 early learning centers across the state. Funded with $10 million in public money and matched by $15 million in private support, the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program endeavors to improve both the quality and availability of early childhood education for at-risk children. Administered by Community Action Project of Tulsa County, the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program has gained national attention as a premier public/private solution to the vast need in improved early learning. Through the state’s early adoption of public pre-school, Oklahoma has a strong reputation as a leader in the field; the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program has further cemented the state’s focus on the most vulnerable of very young children.
Early Childhood Institute at University of Oklahoma-Tulsa
Evaluation is a significant and crucial part of ensuring that any program is effective. Dr. Diane Horm and a full-time team of data collectors lead an ongoing evaluation to ensure both the Educare model is fully implemented and that children are making adequate gains. The next stage of research is a randomized clinical trial of four sites within the national Educare network. The national Educare network is embarking upon a new and significant research endeavor in an effort to show policymakers and the general public that high-quality early learning is worth the cost to best prepare low-income children for school success. For the first time, the early childhood education field will benefit from new research, with two separate pools of children randomly assigned to a treatment or a control group.
In Oklahoma, as well as nationally, there is a lack of highly trained early childhood educators. In response, GKFF has funded students, both at Tulsa Community College (TCC) and at University of Oklahoma-Tulsa (OU-Tulsa), to receive child development associate’s certification (CDA), associates degrees and bachelor degrees. From 2004-2011, approximately 167 students graduated from or were enrolled in TCC. OU-Tulsa has graduated and enrolled approximately 30 students.
The Tulsa Children’s Project (TCP) is funded by GKFF and represents a comprehensive set of programs that focus on breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. One of the key programs within TCP is EduCareers. The EduCareers program goal is to advance the economic and educational achievement of local low-income families with young children from Tulsa Educare. TCP partners include Tulsa Educare, the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Technology Center, Union Public Schools, and other local partnerships needed to deliver effective family outcomes. Initially focusing on the high demand field of nursing, EduCareers combines team-based, high-quality college education with practical, social and emotional support to optimize participants’ success. Nursing cohort participants are provided with tuition, books, assistance with workforce applications, weekly support group meetings, counselling, transportation and childcare services, and monetary incentives for good performance. Future plans include expansion into other high demand occupational development options within the local market through existing partnerships. EduCareers also offers onsite GED and ESL classes for Tulsa Educare families. By providing foundational and sectoral-based strategies focused on helping motivated low-income Tulsa Educare parents, EduCareers impacts families’ ability to achieve financial self-sufficiency through increased workplace income, benefits and career growth opportunities.