Map by StateImpact Indiana
State lawmakers have approved roughly $10 million in funding for a small-scale pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds. Eligible students will be awarded vouchers to enroll at preschools that have earned top rankings from the Family and Social Services Administration, which will oversee the program.
The pilot could launch in five Indiana counties as soon as this fall. But which counties?
The results weren’t surprising: Access to high-quality preschool depends on where you live.There are low-income kids in every Indiana county. But nine counties — Brown, Harrison, Jasper, Orange, Rush, Starke, Sullivan, Warren and Wells — don’t have any child care providers with a level 3 or 4 rating.
And not all early education researchers agree that programs rated levels 3 and 4 will provide the high quality experiences low-income kids need to get ready for kindergarten. A 2013 Indiana University study found level 3 Paths to Quality programs scored significantly lower overall than well-regarded preschool programs in other states.
Yet level 3 programs are the only options in 42 Indiana counties.
Naturally, the state’s most populated counties have more participating providers. But situating the pilot in the state’s urban areas won’t help rural kids. Only about 20 counties have more than 10 level 3 and 4 providers.
So we put the question to you, StateImpact readers: Which five counties make the most sense for Indiana’s pre-K pilot?