Funding for Indiana’s newly-minted preschool program will come from existing appropriations and federal funds.
The approved legislation uses existing Family and Social Services Administration money and private contributions to fund a pilot program in five counties that could provide up to 4,500 low-income children with money to attend a high quality preschool.
Indiana already gets two pots of federal money for very young students: Head Start dollars, and the Child Care Development Block Grant. And the former won’t change as a result of the pre-K legislation, says Indiana Head Start Association Executive Director Cheryl Miller.
“Our funding is actually not connected to the state funding at all,” says Miller. “We are a program that for almost 50 years has retained that structure that is federal to local.”Not having the state as a middleman means lower administrative costs for local Head Start grantees. But it also means the state can’t take Head Start dollars to use for the pre-K pilot.
Instead the state is looking at using federal money used to provide daycare vouchers for low-income families.
“The childcare dollars have a very specific purpose in providing childcare assistance to working families or families that are going to school that are poor,” says Michael Conn-Powers, director of the Early Childhood Center at the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. ”Those dollars the state does, that comes to the state, the state can leverage.”
Conn-Powers says using the childcare development funds to pay for pre-K could move more kids into higher quality programs, as the pilot requires students enroll at preschools that have received the state’s top two ratings.