Photo: Sarah Gilbert (Flickr)
In the November election, Bartholomew County residents will vote on whether to publicly fund preschool programs.
For the past three years, a preschool program in Columbus called Busy Bees has been funded by private donations. The Community Education Coalition says it now needs public support to expand the program.
A referendum on the November ballot asks voters within the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation’s boundaries whether they would approve a $0.05 property tax on each $100 of taxable property for the next seven years.
The referendum will appear on the ballot as follows:
For the seven calendar years immediately following the holding of the referendum, shall the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation impose a property tax rate that does not exceed five cents ($0.05) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of assessed valuation and that is in addition to all other property tax levies imposed by the school corporation?
Community Education Coalition CEO John Burnett says the tax translates to about $1.8 million annually.
“The goal here is particularly targeting the students whose families could not otherwise afford to enroll them in a pre-K program,” he says.
Burnett says the funds would maintain the Busy Bees Academy and expand pre-school programs targeted at low-income families from half-day to full-day. It would also free up private donations for private preschool scholarships.
BCSC Superintendent John Quick says he knows some people think the public pre-K has attracted students away from private programs in the past three years, but he says he does not care where children go to school as long as they have the option of attending preschool.
“We realize that we need the partnership. We need everyone working together,” he says. “We’re not trying to put the private pre-Ks out of business. What we’re trying to do is help students.”
Quick estimates there are about 900 pre-kindergarten-aged students in the district. He says 300 of those could benefit from the funding the referendum . He also says the school district has promised to reduce the tax if the legislature allocates state funds to pre-K education.