Yet prior to 2014, Indiana didn’t provide any public money for preschool — and nearly half of all students started kindergarten without any kind of early childhood education.
That’s why Gov. Mike Pence made finding money to pay for pre-K his No. 1 education priority for the 2014 legislative session. With the support of prominent Republicans like Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, state lawmakers approved a small-scale pilot program for low-income 4-year-olds.
That’s a shift from just a year earlier, when broad support for early learning wasn’t enough to pass a similar pilot program.
Pence has said he favors a local, organic approach to solving Indiana’s pre-K problem — and that’s why the preschool pilot focuses on using existing providers to deliver needed services. The targeted program for low-income families will launch in five Indiana counties and rely on existing funds from the Family and Social Services Administration, as well as matching funds.
But with roughly 40,000 Hoosier 4-year-olds eligible, the back-of-the-napkin numbers add up quickly — serving kids not already enrolled in the federally-funded Head Start program could cost as much as $126 million per year.