The program provides free, high quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth to age five on a monthly basis, regardless of family income.
Indiana and 23 other states filed the suit to stop rules that require students as young as 2 years old to wear masks if they attend a preschool program funded by Head Start.
President Joe Biden proposed a massive package of policies Wednesday designed to reduce child poverty rates and make preschool and higher education more accessible.
Funding the initiative would be a tax increase on the rich, most notably a near doubling of the capital gains tax rate on incomes above $1 million, to 39.6%.
Organizers hope to address the barriers that discourage men of color from working as preschool teachers, including a lack of representation in preschool classrooms and the misconception that teaching preschool is like a babysitting job.
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.