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Pence continues pitch for preschool voucher plan

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence spent Wednesday morning highlighting the work of an Indianapolis preschool as he made a final pitch for an early education voucher plan that has foundered in the Legislature.

In a classroom of 4-year-olds at the Shepherd Community Center, Pence stressed the need for a pilot program that would use state money to help children attend preschool.

The program passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support but ran into trouble in the Senate amid concern from Republicans worried that it could lock the state into expansive new spending at a time when tax collections are declining. Senate Republicans instead proposed studying the issue for a year before making any decisions.

Pence urged lawmakers to reconsider but acknowledged the benefits of further assessment.

"While I believe the time is now for a pilot program, like that which has passed the House of Representatives, I also am just as enthusiastic about a comprehensive study that has been advocated in legislation moving through the state Senate," he said.

The preschool voucher plan, which could cost up to $25 million, is one of several key Pence agenda items that have struggled to gain traction this session. A proposal to pay teachers to transfer to struggling public and private schools was also trimmed back to a study, and his call for a business equipment tax cut has been scaled back. Roads funding he is seeking also looks in danger of being curbed.

Pence's difficulties stem in part from asking for new spending during one of the General Assembly's "short sessions," when no budget is being crafted. Pence has requested that lawmakers approve measures like the preschool plan this year and then find a way to pay for it next year when they write the next budget.

Jenny Izaguirre, who has a daughter attending the preschool, praised Pence's voucher proposal, saying state aid is critical to opening doors for low-income families like hers.

"It is really important because now she can read, she can learn. We don't have the opportunity the other families do who want to have their kids in preschool," Izaguirre said.

Shepherd Community Center is already funded through private grants and donations, as well as money from scholarship granting organizations, or SGOs, which were effectively providing school vouchers long before the state got in the game.

But Sonna Dumas, director of the center's preschool program, said the private money is not as stable as state money would be. She noted that state aid would allow her preschool to expand.

The school serves largely low-income families, Dumas said — the same people who would receive money from the state if a preschool voucher was approved.

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  1. A Tilted Kilt at a water park themed hotel? Who planned that one? I guess the Dad's need something to do while the kids are on the water slides.

  2. Don't come down on the fair for offering drinks. This is a craft and certainly one that belongs in agriculture due to ingredients. And for those worrying about how much you can drink. I'm sure it's more to do with liability than anything else. They don't want people suing for being over served. If you want a buzz, do a little pre-drinking before you go.

  3. I don't drink but go into this "controlled area" so my friend can drink. They have their 3 drink limit and then I give my friend my 3 drink limit. How is the fair going to control this very likely situation????

  4. I feel the conditions of the alcohol sales are a bit heavy handed, but you need to realize this is the first year in quite some time that beer & wine will be sold at the fair. They're starting off slowly to get a gauge on how it will perform this year - I would assume if everything goes fine that they relax some of the limits in the next year or couple of years. That said, I think requiring the consumption of alcohol to only occur in the beer tent is a bit much. That is going to be an awkward situation for those with minors - "Honey, I'm getting a beer... Ok, sure go ahead... Alright see you in just a min- half an hour."

  5. This might be an effort on the part of the State Fair Board to manage the risk until they get a better feel for it. However, the blanket notion that alcohol should not be served at "family oriented" events is perhaps an oversimplification. and not too realistic. For 15 years, I was a volunteer at the Indianapolis Air Show, which was as family oriented an event as it gets. We sold beer donated by Monarch Beverage Company and served by licensed and trained employees of United Package Liquors who were unpaid volunteers. And where did that money go? To central Indiana children's charities, including Riley Hospital for Children! It's all about managing the risk.

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