Indiana's governor and legislative leaders have agreed to expand the state's foray into state-funded pre-kindergarten, but uncertainties about its effectiveness are causing some lawmakers to question the scope and cost of such an expansion.
Indiana's pre-K pilot program cost about $10 million to get started and served about 2,300 disadvantaged children in five counties during its first year, The Journal Gazette (of Fort Wayne) reported. The program's second year starts in August.
There is no data that gauges the program's value, and a full study tracking the children's performance through third grade is not expected until 2020.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the legislature needs to assess where the greatest need is and expand the program from there.
Some options include expanding the existing voluntary pilot program for 4-year-olds to all 92 counties or expanding to a handful of new counties that applied for the pilot in 2014 but were not chosen. The alteration of financial eligibility levels to allow more families in the existing pilot and new counties to be eligible for aid is also an option.
Democratic gubernatorial candidae etJohn Gregg has to create a universal pre-K program for all 4-year-olds in every public school district. That option would cost about $144 million in its first year and would increase to about $288 million by 2020, assuming only 50 percent of the children participate at $6,800 a child.
According to Long, "to just say universal pre-K without understanding the price tag is simply irresponsible."
Gov. Mike Pence said he plans to look at federal resources and corporate partners, and he plans to ask the state legislature for more state money.