Cummins Helps Drive Jackson County (Ind.) Education Coalition

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Multiple studies have shown that children who attend high-quality preschool programs score higher on mathematics and reading assessments in elementary grades. They also gain critical non-cognitive or “soft skills” needed for success in school, are less likely to need special education services and are more likely to graduate from high school than children who do not attend such programs.

Jackson County in Southern Indiana has been actively integrating the preschool model into their communities. Spearheaded by the Jackson County Education Coalition (JCEC), three public preschools will begin classes this fall. Crothersville will expand their program from 20 to 30 children, while Seymour and Medora will begin new programs, hosting 70 children in total.

“The coalition’s slogan is, ‘All good things start with a great foundation,’ and with Cummins’ support, more children will have the opportunity to get that great foundation through public preschool opportunities,” said Dan Hodge, Director of JCEC.

Darren Wildman, plant manager at Cummins’ Seymour Engine Plant, along with the site’s Community Involvement Team (CIT), have been an actively engaged with the coalition’s progress and development.

“While working side by side with the JCEC, we are already seeing our efforts make a difference,” said Brenda Hardesty, Seymour CIT Leader. “I am not sure we would be able to make a difference so quickly without the partnership we have with the coalition. The partnership between SEP and JCEC is a win/win for everyone.”

High-quality preschool is also a wise economic investment. Leading economists – including James J. Heckman and Dimitriy V. Masterov in their 2007 report, “The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children” – contend that for every $1 invested in high-quality preschool, taxpayers save an average of $7 in future costs due to reductions in remedial education costs and crime, and increased labor productivity.

The JCEC is a result of a Cummins Foundation grant which allowed the coalition to take a broad approach on addressing educational needs in the county. Jackson County was also awarded the Pilot Pre-K grant from the state, in effect next year.  This grant will help with providing lower income families more access to preschool opportunities starting in July 2015. Cummins has also been a key supporter for education coalitions in other communities including Jamestown, N.Y., Rocky Mount, N.C. and Charleston, S.C.

Additional Resources

Indiana Public Media – “Little People, Big Plans: Pre-K Preparations in Jackson County

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