State senators will likely gut the modest pre-K plan that has the backing of Gov. Mike Pence, writes Matthew Tully for the Indianapolis Star:
But the forces of opposition are strong in the Statehouse. And they reside most notably in the Indiana Senate, where powerhouse Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, has been skeptical about the idea. He has questioned the estimated $10 million per-year cost of the program and the governor’s idea of crafting the preschool policy this year and then addressing funding for it during next year’s budget-writing session.
Pence and House Republicans aren’t giving up, but the Senate opposition presents a daunting, perhaps game-ending obstacle this session.
The governor’s plan seems reasonable, as it would allow the state to perfect the mechanics of the policy so that the program can take off shortly after the funding is secured. But it goes against tradition at the Statehouse. Sadly, sometimes that’s all that matters. …Kenley today told me his plan is to send the issue to a summer study committee and to ask advocates to answer a series of questions, many of which surround the uncertain goal of freeing up money by receiving waivers from the federal government to the way education dollars are now spent in Indiana.
The pre-K proposal is the brainchild of House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who has advanced legislation in each of the last two sessions to establish a pilot program.
Indiana is one of a handful of states that doesn’t provide any public money for pre-K. But while the Indiana House has warmed to the idea of state-funded early learning, lawmakers in the upper chamber remain unconvinced.
Kenley told StateImpact late last year that for all of the talk about pre-K at the statehouse, none of the plans seemed very solid to him. Still, advancing the bill to summer study session would actually be an improvement from last year.
As we’ve written before, the Indiana Department of Education backs state-funded pre-K and has actually outlined a plan for bolstering the state’s preschool infrastructure without spending more money.
Follow @kystokes for updates from today’s Senate Education Committee hearing, which starts at 1:30 p.m. EST.