A bill originally intended to launch a state-funded preschool program passed was largely rewritten in a Senate Committee last week, eliminating the pilot program and its funding.
The new version of the bill establishes the early education evaluation program- intended to find out how well preschool programs aimed at low-income students prepares those children for kindergarten.
The state already rates child care programs based on their quality of education using a program called Paths to QUALITY.
The Indiana University Campus Children’s Center in Bloomington received a four out of four, but that comes with a high price tag. The program spends about $600,000 a year for only 68 children.
Center Director Christy Smith says it’s worth it.
“The big word, or course, is kindergarten readiness and a lot of people are thinking about your letters and your numbers and getting along with your peers and such like that,” she says.
Legislators have suggested a future amendment to the bill that would provide state funding to centers that earn a three or four on the quality scale.
Michael Conn-Powers is the Director of the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community’s Early Childhood Center. While it’s likely the legislature won’t put any money into preschool until next year, Powers says the less time the state waits to fund preschool, the better.
“Moving gradually and addressing the educational needs of kids that are at a risk is a very important thing,” he says. “We do need to start investing, we need to begin to put some money behind that.”
Indiana currently does not provide any funding for preschools. The bill moves next to the Senate floor for a vote.