Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What To Know About The Indiana Pre-K Bill Signed Into Law

Indiana will expand state-funded preschool allows the program to extend to 15 new counties, ties it to the state’s private school voucher program and includes a controversial option for online preschool.  (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

Indiana expands state-funded preschool, allowing the program to extend to 15 new counties, tying it to the state’s private school voucher program and including a controversial option for online preschool. (Peter Balonon-Rosen/Indiana Public Broadcasting)

With little fanfare, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill Wednesday that will expand Indiana’s pre-K pilot program.

The new plan will expand state-funded preschool to 20 counties, tie it to the state’s private school voucher program and include a controversial option for online preschool.

Currently, the $10 million state-funded On My Way Pre-K program serves around 2,000 low-income students in five counties. Expanding preschool access in Indiana has been a key goal of lawmakers this session, including Holcomb.

Under the new $22 million plan, any of the state’s 92 counties are eligible to compete to become one of the 15 counties included in the expansion. Lawmakers say rural counties and places with a lack of high-quality preschool providers will be prioritized.

Under the new state budget, $1 million of the pre-K funding is dedicated to paying for online preschool for eligible families.

“Online pre-K is an ok supplement for quality classroom-based pre-K, but I don’t think it’s an adequate substitute,” says Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana.

Maple and a coalition of pre-K advocates had originally hoped to see state-funded preschool reach all 92 counties in the state.

“We’re very encouraged by the additional investment the state is making in expanding access to pre-K, but we also recognize there are many more children without access,” Maple says. “We’re hopeful that our state leaders will continue to expand access.”

In a controversial move, students would automatically be enrolled in the choice scholarship program if they attend a private school preschool and wish to continue there in kindergarten. Tying the pre-K program to the voucher program motivated some Democratic lawmakers to vote against the measure.

“We’d like to see universal funding for early childhood education, but this poison pill of the voucher prevents me from being able to support this bill,” said Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) on the Indiana Senate floor.

To qualify for Indiana’s preschool program, a family of four must ear less than $30,861, or 127 percent of the federal poverty level. In the original five counties, families of four making up to $44,863, or 185 percent of the federal poverty level, could apply if all interested lower-income families received services.

The increase in preschool funding falls below what Gov. Holcomb and preschool advocates originally asked for.

Senate Republicans said they were wary of allocating millions more dollars to a state-funded pilot program that hasn’t been fully studied.

Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) made financial and ideological objections.

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Comments

  • Jenni

    The state needs to raise its income guidelines so that more kids can be served. The Head Start program serves children at or below 100 percent of poverty. Statewide, Head Start serves 15,614 children. More children could be served if the state increased its income guidelines. As it stands, there is a duplication of services. A lot of children will slip through the cracks. Especially families whose income levels are above the guidelines but can’t afford to pay for preschool.

  • Jennifer Streit

    Online preschool?????? They need to play, explore and socialize. Let them learn sharing, caring, listening and empathy. This is so wrong!!!

  • Jenni

    I completely agree with you Jennifer Streit!!!!! Online preschool is not developmentally
    appropriate. That’s not how 4 and 5 year-olds learn. But that’s what
    happens when bureaucrats with no child development background make
    policy without consulting experts and their constituents. It’s been all
    over the news and internet that this is a ridiculous plan. But they do
    not pay any attention to the wants and needs of children and families.
    Online preschool is the cheap way of reaching more children. In reality,
    it’s a waste of tax money that could be put to better use in a
    developmentally appropriate program. But I bet you dollars to donuts
    that they release “data” that the online program works. But those of us
    in the early childhood field know better. Technology integrated in the
    early childhood classroom along with play-based learning is effective,
    but putting all your eggs in one basket does not work.

  • Jenni

    I completely agree with you!!!!! Online preschool is not developmentally
    appropriate. That’s not how 4 and 5 year-olds learn. But that’s what
    happens when bureaucrats with no child development background make
    policy without consulting experts and their constituents. It’s been all
    over the news and internet that this is a ridiculous plan. But they do
    not pay any attention to the wants and needs of children and families.
    Online preschool is the cheap way of reaching more children. In reality,
    it’s a waste of tax money that could be put to better use in a
    developmentally appropriate program. But I bet you dollars to donuts
    that they release “data” that the online program works. But those of us
    in the early childhood field know better. Technology integrated in the
    early childhood classroom along with play-based learning is effective,
    but putting all your eggs in one basket does not work.

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