Amid key expansion, Indiana fills its On My Way Pre-K seats

After expanding statewide this year, Indiana’s prekindergarten program has filled all its seats—a significant milestone after facing challenges launching in new counties.

On My Way Pre-K is serving 3,517 children this school year, according to Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. The program offers vouchers for low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to pre-K providers who meet high quality standards.

The state’s pre-K program started small in 2015 and had to tackle two big issues: getting the word out to families and working with providers to improve quality.

Last year, On My Way Pre-K did not reach capacity—a critical factor that kept lawmakers from increasing program funding. Instead, they decided to open up pre-K to all eligible families in Indiana, rather than restricting pre-K vouchers to 20 counties.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had pledged to serve 500 more families through On My Way Pre-K this year, while keeping the annual pre-K budget at $22 million.

Early learning advocates could leverage the growing pre-K enrollment to make the case for more funding to serve more children. With its relatively new program, Indiana trails most other states when it comes to public pre-K, and advocates estimate 27,000 4-year-olds in Indiana could be eligible for On My Way Pre-K.

This year, in order to reach more families, the state simplified the pre-K application, streamlined the income verification process, used feedback from families to improve its messaging, and increased its social media presence, Lemons said.

The state has closed the On My Way Pre-K application, so it is not tracking additional families who express interest throughout the year. But low-income families can still call a free hotline at 800-299-1627 for help finding a quality childcare provider or identifying other forms of financial assistance.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.