Escambia Children's Trust seeks first proposals
The Escambia Children’s Trust (ECT) is marking a milestone by issuing its first Request for Proposals.
“Basically, it’s our first grant application that we’ve put out to the community, because I know the community has been dying to see this money flowing,” said Executive Director Tammy Greer in reference to the half-mill, ad valorem tax that’s expected to generate about $8 million a year to support the children’s services council.
In November 2020, voters in Escambia County approved the creation of the Escambia Children’s Trust, with a dedicated property tax, to fund programs and services aimed at improving the lives of children and families.
With assessment of the 2022 tax-year levy underway since November, Greer said the ECT board was ready to get started.
For this first grant offering, local providers of high-quality early learning services have been invited to apply for funding to design, implement and operate a Kindergarten Summer Bridge Program aimed at school readiness.
“Sometimes, they’re called transition programs, sometimes called boot camps; it depends how your craft your program design,” said Greer, noting that the goal of the summer bridge program is to teach some of the basics and provide some guidance to young children who’ve never had any exposure to a formal learning environment.
“It’s to come up with a project to take those kids who’ve never seen a classroom and introduce them to what it’s like to line up, to sit in a circle to have circle time, to play with other children their own age.”
Unfortunately, assessment administered in the fall showed only 48% of Escambia children entering kindergarten for the 2021-2022 school year were "kindergarten ready."
According to Greer, data show there are approximately 600 children, set to start school this fall, who've never been in a classroom.
“So, the way we came to the 600 number is we looked at how many children are expected to hit kindergarten in August of 2022 and then we backed out the number of kids in early learning programs and Head Start programs and VPK programs in the county and we came up with approximately 600.”
These 600 kids will be the target of the summer bridge program that’s now open for proposals.
At Brownsville Community Center on Wednesday, the Escambia Children’s Trust had an information session for representatives of interested early learning providers about this first RFP. About 20 people attended in-person and via Zoom.
“Some of the things that we covered were the sections of the proposal and how it will be scored, and what you can include in the budget,” Greer said.
With the deadline for proposals a few short weeks away, she pointed out that this first RFP does not have an evaluation component and intentionally does not include a minimum or maximum budget requirement. The purpose of leaving it open-ended is to encourage creativity with program design and boost participation.
“We don’t want to preclude any of the small programs that may not need $100,000, or if there’s a big program that has the capacity to do something massive, some big countywide event, we don’t want to knock them out by putting a cap.”
“Certainly, we would want to be a recipient of any funding from the Escambia Children’s Trust,” said Reggie Dogan, early brain development program manager for the Studer Community Institute.
SCI is focused on early learning by creating programs such as its Brain Bags initiative, which provides video lessons and toolkits for new parents.
Dogan said SCI would consider a proposal for the summer bridge program, but more likely would be looking for an opportunity down the road.
"I'm interested in this one," said Carla Thompson in reference to this first grant application. Thompson represents Escambia County Neighborhood and Human Services, which runs summer camp and after-school programs, was focused on this first grant application.
She was buoyed by ECT’s encouragement to collaborate with other providers, as well as early learning experts.
“It’s actually gonna make it work out better,” said Thompson. “You know, if you can collaborate with the school, with someone that’s an educator and get points from them, that’s going to only improve the process.”
ReadyKids!, Harmonic Learning Education and Training, CMB Visions Unlimited, and Children’s Theatre Company, which is preparing to set up shop in Pensacola, were among other interested organizations.
The deadline for proposals is June 8. The grant will be awarded in mid-June and the contract period begins July 1.
More information, questions and answers, and a Zoom recording of the informational session are available on the ECT website.