Pre-K program won’t be ready for students this fall

The pre-kindergarten pilot program advocated by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and passed by the General Assembly earlier this year will not be ready to launch this fall.

House Education Chairman Bob Behning, author of the law, said he has recommended the program should start in the fall of 2015.

And Lou Ann Baker, director of external relations for the Center for Education and Career Innovation, said an executive committee working on the program is very close to determining a timeline. But “given the many parameters, it will not be this fall,” she said.

Behning and some state officials had said in March that the program could be ready as early as August.

But in a statement, the Family and Social Services Administration said the law “includes requirements for a number of items that must be addressed prior to pilot implementation including the procurement of a researcher to conduct the longitudinal child outcome study, the design and implementation of a new kindergarten readiness assessment and the program accountability system,  as well as upgrades to IT and staffing infrastructure.”

FSSA said the “rollout date will be announced as soon as it is finalized.”

The bill passed the General Assembly despite initial skepticism from majority Republicans in the Indiana Senate who wanted to study the issue before committing cash to the program. Senate leaders eventually relented – after Pence made repeated trips to preschools to tout the proposal – but forced the governor to find the $10 million for preschool within existing social service programs.

Pence said his administration has already identified the $10 million in savings within the Family and Social Services Administration to fund the pilot.

An executive committee will choose the five counties for the pilot with the goal of picking urban, suburban and rural areas. State officials said the counties will be chosen and announced in the middle of June.

Also, the participating communities have to raise 10 percent to 50 percent of the funds from sources outside of the state – in addition to the $10 million Pence was responsible for.

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