An annual national report on preschool dumped Indiana from this year’s rankings, excluding the state’s fledging On My Way Pre-K program because of a controversial requirement that bars some families in need from signing up.
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Indiana expects to leave state funding for pre-kindergarten untouched this year due to a slower-than-hoped expansion, according to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said there would be “no more stove-pipe approach,” referring to criticisms by some legislative leaders that the workforce development system is convoluted and divided into isolated silos.
The preschool program for children from low-income families previously was offered in just five counties, but lawmakers recently expanded it.
Spots for children of low-income families are available in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties for the On My Way Pre-K program.
The preschool pilot will expand from five counties to up to 20 under the bill.
Fifty-one percent of respondents in an early state evaluation of the pre-K program said their families had been able to increase their work or school hours while their children participated in the program.
A House bill that would increase state funding to send low-income children to preschool was gutted in an Indiana Senate committee, setting up a potential clash between the two chambers.
Tying an expansion of Indiana’s pre-school program to its more politically touchy voucher system has drawn criticism from House Democrats, pre-K advocates and even some Republicans.
Supporters of expanding state-funded preschool said they are frustrated the bill includes what they view as an expansion of the private school voucher program.
The voucher language has injected some controversy into a bill that has received bipartisan support.
Preschool advocates want the Indiana Legislature to spend $50 million a year to expand the state’s pilot program. So far, lawmakers seem cool to that idea.
Although Indiana’s House leadership has already come out strongly in support of expanding the state’s preschool program, key players in the Senate said Wednesday that they remain skeptical about added costs.
The three gubernatorial candidates—Democrat John Gregg, Republican Eric Holcomb and Libertarian Rex Bell—debated issues relating to jobs and the economy at the debate at University of Indianapolis.
The Republicans and Democrats running for governor and state superintendent say they’ll focus their energy on kids, although they have different plans to do so.
Advocates want to see Indiana children from families earning up to at least 200 percent of the federal poverty line have access to high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.