Indiana lawmakers should act quickly to expand a preschool pilot program – one that’s not even yet underway – when they meet for their budget-writing session next year, business and not-for-profit leaders said Monday.
The funds will help providers around Indiana improve curricula, build classrooms, educate parents about the importance of high-quality child care and education, and support professional development for teachers.
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis and Vice President John Barth said children could be served next year by the state’s much smaller pilot program, which will reach nearly 800 economically disadvantaged four-year-olds in Marion County.
Funding concerns involving the homestead credit have prompted work on an alternative plan that Democrats expect to unveil soon.
Five Indiana counties will be part of the state’s preschool pilot program for low-income children, which could be launched in early 2015.
The pre-kindergarten pilot program advocated by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and passed by the General Assembly earlier this year will not be ready to launch this fall.
The pilot program would come in addition to a comprehensive study of preschool programs that was part of the bill as it left the Senate.
Sen. Luke Kenley scuttled a pilot program of state-funded preschool vouchers for low-income families on Feb. 19, instead sending it to a summer committee to investigate 10 questions he said will help make sure Indiana launches a worthwhile program.
The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to change the measure from a limited pilot program to an issue that will be studied over the summer.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said the benefits of preschool are too important to ignore for Indiana to remain one of 10 states that doesn’t put state funding into the programs.
Challenges for Ted Maple, formerly in charge of early-childhood education for the United Way, include keeping the venerable child care provider and its $10 million budget in the black.
Public and private school advocates displayed rare unity Wednesday in support of preschool for Indiana children but split over an effort to give children school vouchers once they complete preschool.
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma plans to spearhead efforts to create a new statewide jobs council and give families scholarships so children can attend preschool as part of an agenda focused on fighting Indiana’s stubborn unemployment rate by closing the state’s “skills gap.”