Atlanta Public Schools OKs $5 million for mayor’s early learning push

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Mayor Andre Dickens’ plan to invest $20 million in early learning efforts just got a $5 million boost from Atlanta Public Schools.

The Atlanta Board of Education on Monday agreed to support the initiative aimed at preparing children for school and helping families access child care and educational programs for children 3 and younger.

The APS contribution will be used to purchase curriculum materials, supplies, iPads, and internet access and to pay for training and for “field trips for select early childhood centers,” the district’s chief financial officer, Lisa Bracken, told board members.

The money will come from the district’s fund reserves, she said. APS plans to use just over $24 million from those rainy day funds this fiscal year, leaving an estimated fund balance of $236.3 million when the year ends June 30.

The APS investment comes six months after Dickens unveiled his plan to invest millions in public and private dollars to improve early learning programs in Atlanta.

Officials have now raised about three-quarters of the $20 million goal. That includes the school system’s contribution, a $5 million investment from the city, and support from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students or GEEARS, said officials now will launch the next phase of fundraising, focusing on donations from businesses. GEEARS convenes a group of public and private entities, known as Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive, which is helping to coordinate the early learning initiative.

The effort includes providing scholarship money to help Atlanta’s low-income families and front-line workers pay for early childhood programs. That part will build on an existing program. Early childhood education providers also can apply for grant funding to pay for costs such as renovating and repairing their facilities. Details are still being worked out.