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Breaking Down The Latest Cost Estimate For Indiana’s Proposed Pre-K Pilot

Looking down Market Street from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the Indiana Statehouse.

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Looking down Market Street from the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the Indiana Statehouse.

A proposed pilot program to offer preschool vouchers to low-income families in five Indiana counties would cost nearly $25 million per year if state lawmakers approve it, according to one estimate from General Assembly staffers.

Fiscal analysts at the Legislative Services Agency had estimated a very similar proposal the Indiana House passed during the 2013 session would have cost $7 million for 1,000 students.

The bill House lawmakers marked up Monday does not specify how many students could take part in the pilot program or which five counties would take part.

That may explain how the cost estimate tripled between last year and this year for two proposed programs that are practically identical.

The nearly $25 million projected cost of this year’s pilot proposal includes administrative expenses, but also assumes more students than projected last year would take part.

Instead of the 1,000 students analysts predicted last year, analysts figured up to 4,600 students would take part in a pilot program — a figure that assumes state officials roll out the pilot program in the state’s most populous counties.

So $25 million may be a high-end estimate, but the number also serves to underline a point we’ve made before — state-funded pre-K isn’t cheap.

Comments

  • Bob Crum

    I think it’s really weird that you write state funded preK is not cheap.

    Compared to the cost of the Iraq war, it is pretty cheap. A one-cent stick of gum is very cheap but a $100 stick of gum is not cheap. PreK is probably cheaper than paying for food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, incarceration, etc.

    At a rate of $7 million per 1,000 students, a pilot for 4,600 students seems like it should cost $30 million. So maybe $25 million is cheap after all. What do you know about it?

    • kystokes

      Thanks for the comment — I take your point that it isn’t exactly the cost of The Great Society, but I think the characterization is fair in the context of the state budget. $25 million is in the ballpark of the same annual appropriation IU South Bend gets to operate, for example, or the annual appropriation of state-level special ed funding. There are 80ish budget lines in the K-12 section of the state budget, and a $25 million annual appropriation for pre-K would be bigger than about 75 of them (although the biggest one, of course, is the state’s annual K-12 appropriation… of $6.7ish BILLION). I’d wager in the broader state budget, a $25 million appropriation is bigger than at least half of the individual budget lines.

      • Bob Crum

        Great points.

  • Frank Rizzo

    Well Bob, compared the Iraq war it might be cheap, but in reality, its competing for funding with things like roads, K-12 education, state recreation areas, tax cuts, and other things funded at the state, rather than federal level. When you look at $25 million, it is not exactly a drop in the bucket, but I do agree that it is well worth it.

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