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House Passes Bill To Create Preschool Pilot Program

Students play an alligator game with their teacher at Busy Bees Academy, a public preschool in Columbus, Ind.

In what state lawmakers call a first step in helping bolster early childhood education, the House passed Monday legislation creating a preschool pilot program.

The preschool pilot program would study the feasibility of a statewide preschool program by providing up to $6,8000 to low-income families to send their children to a high-quality preschool, as accredited by the state. The program would only be available in five counties and would be capped at seven million dollars.

Evansville Republican Representative Suzanne Crouch, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, says the program does not just make educational sense, it makes business sense.

“The return on investment in high-quality early childhood education ranges from $17 to $18 for every dollar invested,” she says. “Current workers will be able to find and afford quality early care and education, making them more productive employees.”

Some Democrats expressed concern with a provision of the bill that makes all participants in the program eligible for the school voucher program. But Crown Point Democrat Shelli VanDenburgh says the issue is too important to hold up on those grounds.

“I just looked at it as state assistance to those who need it most,” she says. “You can call it a scholarship. You can call it whatever you want, but the money is going to those who need it.”

The bill passed 92-6.  It now moves to the Senate.

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