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Pre-K Pilot Program Heading To Governor’s Desk

The pilot program would provide $10 million in assistance to help low-income families send their children to preschool.

pre-k

Photo: Sean Dreilinger (Flickr)

Children must live in families that make below 127 percent of the federal poverty level to qualify for the pilot program.

Update 10 p.m.:

Governor Mike Pence is expected to sign a bill that would create a preschool pilot program for low-income children.

The program has a cap of $10 million in existing funds from the Family and Social Services Administration, with at least 10 percent and up to 50 percent of that in matching funds must come from private sources.

To be eligible, families must earn at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Up to the end of session, some lawmakers, including Senate Appropriations Chair Luke Kenley opposed the measure because of fiscal concerns.

“At $10 million a year, that’s a pretty expensive approach to this when you don’t even have the thing synthesized in your own mind yet,” Kenley said.

Pence wouldn’t give up, pushing hard for a pilot program.

“We are on a daily basis engaging with members of the General Assembly in both parties to make the case that the time has come for expanding access to quality pre-k programs to some of our most disadvantaged kids,” he said earlier this year.

In the end, the legislature agreed on a program that funds high quality pre-k for four-year-olds in five counties using money reverted to the budget from state agencies at the end of the fiscal year and private dollars, such as grants, donations, and gifts.  Bosma says he’s hopeful the program can begin as early as this fall.

“This gives a chance to prove that strong early education opportunities for these lowest of income families can make a difference for them,” Bosma says. “It’s been proven elsewhere. We need to prove it here in Indiana to make the case for the future.”

Update 5:04 p.m.:

The Senate passed the pre-k pilot program. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Original Post:

The House approved a preschool pilot program today after it was seemingly left for dead just two weeks ago.

Speaker Brian Bosma says creation of the pre-k pilot wouldn’t have been possible without a funding mechanism crafted by the Senate.

The program can use up to $10 million in existing funds from the Family and Social Services Administration, while at least 10 percent and up to 50 percent of that in matching funds must come from private sources.

Rep.  Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, says that could provide high quality preschool opportunities for anywhere from 2,000 to 4,500 low-income children.

Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point, says it’s the best and biggest bipartisan legislation for helping young Hoosiers.

“But this also will allow Indiana to receive much-needed grant money from the federal level that we will now qualify for,” she says. “So this will bring millions of dollars to our state.”

To be eligible, families must earn at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level or about $30,000 for a family of four.

That’s lower than the eligibility from the original bill, which would have been about $43,000 for a family of four.

Bosma says he’s hopeful the program can begin as early as this fall.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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