The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners appointed 15 early childhood advocates to the Preschool for All Advisory Committee Thursday, Aug. 12, marking another milestone since voters passed the Preschool for All ballot measure in November 2020. Each committee member will serve a two-year term.
The committee will provide guidance and feedback on the initiative’s implementation. Duties will include reviewing program expenditures, advising evaluation efforts, and reviewing data and making policy recommendations to the Department of County Human Services.
The group will also advance Preschool for All’s commitment to building an early learning system based on racial justice and equity. Seventy-three percent of the group identifies as a Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color (BIPOC), with members representing every geographic quadrant of Multnomah County.
Committee members represent key roles in early childhood development and education. Forty percent self-reported as parents. The group also includes current and former preschool providers, child care workers, school district representatives, and culturally specific organization members. Two members are leaders of advocacy organizations that support children and families. The group also includes a pediatrician.
“There are names on there of people who have been there since the early beginning of the Preschool for All planning,” said Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, who championed the initiative. “They understand the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish and have been working on this for years already.”
The recruitment process was extensive and equity driven. The application was open for one month and available in seven different languages. Preschool for All Task Force members, culturally specific community organizations, the Office of Community Involvement, Universal Preschool NOW! and other partners helped raise awareness of the opportunity.
“We spent a lot of time working on the application to ensure that it was as accessible as possible and to plan an equitable process,” said Brooke Chilton-Timmons, who works for the Early Learning Division. “We wanted people to hear about this opportunity from people they trusted.”
A work group received more than 150 applications, with 40 percent of applicants identifying as BIPOC. The group then scored the applications using criteria adapted from the Office of Community Involvement to emphasize racial equity.
The work group recommended 25 applicants to Chair Deborah Kafoury’s office. The Chair’s Office scored the applications, again with a focus on racial equity, narrowing the list down to the final 15 committee members:
Dr. Koreen Barerras-Brown
Petra Hernandez Garcia
Dr. Jaime Peterson
“It’s outstanding that 159 people applied for these positions,” Chair Kafoury said. “It shows the breadth and depth of the interest and excitement in our community about this measure finally coming to fruition.”
With the committee members selected, Preschool for All will continue to move through its implementation timeline. The program remains on track to have children enrolled in September 2022.
In a few weeks, the program is expected to open its Pathways Program, which will give preschool providers access to coaching, professional development and other supports to prepare them for Preschool for All. The program is also working to offer an electronic application in time for families to apply for slots in 2022.
“We are glad to celebrate the creation of the first Preschool for All Advisory Committee,” said Preschool and Early Learning Division Director Leslee Barnes. “Our early implementation work continues to move forward as we look forward to our September 2022 goal of children on preschool carpets.”