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Tobacco Tax Funds Kindergarten Scholarships

Eighty qualifying families in the City of Chandler will have the opportunity to apply for preschool slots funded by tobacco-tax dollars.

The $270,000 First Things First Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Grant awarded to the Chandler School District is paid for with tobacco-tax dollars approved by Arizona voters. In 2006, Proposition 203 increased statewide cigarette taxes by 80 cents for the First Things First programs.

In addition to the 80 preschool slots made available for qualifying families, the grant also pays for dental and health screenings, nutrition education, and family literacy programs. Families must be below a certain poverty level based on income and household size in order to be eligible for the scholarship grant. A family household of four people for example, must have an annual income of less than $46,100.

The preschool slots offer reduced tuition rates to the recipients of the First Things First Scholarship award. Children must be 4 years old, and classes meet five days a week, Monday through Friday. The Chandler School District offers half day programs for $50 per month, and full day programs for $100 per month.

“The Chandler Unified School District will place 40 of the 80 available preschool slots in Title 1 school areas, where the majority of low-income families live,” said Frank Narducci, assistant superintendent for elementary education. The other half of the slots will be distributed throughout the school district.

Barb Mozdzen, governing board member of the Chandler School District, emphasizes the importance of early childhood care. “From birth to age five is the most crucial development period of a child’s life,” Mozdzen said.

Certified teaching staff help children get ready for kindergarten by using hands on activities, and early learning standards curriculum. Daily meals and snacks are also provided as a part of the preschool programs grant.

Narducci explains the main goal for the First Things First grant, and how it helps families with young children. “The grant award is intended to reduce any barriers for individuals to access quality pre-kindergarten programming,” Narducci said.

Families are being made aware of this opportunity when they request information about preschools, and also through the school district’s website. “Word of mouth is pretty strong too,” Narducci said.

The First Things First Scholarship Grant application can be found on the Arizona Department of Education website at www.ade.az.gov. When applying for the grant, families are required to provide the child’s birth certificate, and immunization record, along with proof of residence and income. The grant is awarded on a first come first serve basis.