Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Preschool Pilot Revived, Now Heads To Governor’s Desk

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

An aide helps a student count at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus.

State lawmakers have approved a preschool pilot program today after it was seemingly left for dead just two weeks ago. It now heads to Gov. Mike Pence’s desk.

House 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. At least 10 percent — and up to 50 percent — of that in matching funds must come from private sources or the federal government.

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.

The amount of the awards will range from $2,500 to $6,800. The compromise also strips language that would have automatically qualified participating 4-year-olds to receive K-12 tuition vouchers through the state’s Choice Scholarship Program.

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

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