State’s preschool pilot program receives 1,800 applicants

Indiana's Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning says it has received more than 1,800 applications from families who would like to enroll their 4-year-old children in the first phase of its preschool pilot program.

Gov. Mike Pence says the response to the "On My Way Pre-K" program that begins next month confirms the need for high-quality early education for the state's most disadvantaged children.

The goal for the first phase of the program was to enroll 350 children. But because of the high demand, the state plans to enroll 100 additional children. The pilot program is open to children in Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties

A randomized lottery will determine which children will be selected for the available provider slots.

Funding preschool education has been one of the hot political issues in the state and locally in 2014.

In Indianapolis, the City-County Council this month authorized a $40 million public-private partnership that will allow more than 1,000 poor children to have access to high-quality preschool starting in 2016.

The plan was a compromise between Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and council Democrats after nearly six months of debate about how to pay for the plan.

Ballard’s plan was resisted by City-County Council Democrats soon after it was proposed. The Democrats said Ballard’s preferred funding mechanism—eliminating the local homestead tax credit—would hurt Indianapolis Public Schools and other Marion County schools.

After his fellow Democrats effectively killed the plan, Council Vice President John Barth helped resurrect it by meeting with the mayor’s office and business leaders to forge a compromise. That compromise, which doesn’t touch the local homestead tax credit as a funding source, unanimously passed a Council committee last month.


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