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Senate Committee Scraps Preschool Pilot Program

Teacher Janet Craig helps students identify colors during at pre-kindergarten camp at Maple Elementary in Avon, Ind. United Way funds the camp, which is staffed by local teachers and volunteers from the Indiana University Health system.

The Senate Education Committee threw out Wednesday a plan to pay for a preschool pilot program.

As part of a larger education bill, House Republicans had proposed paying for preschool for low-income students in five counties. If the program was successful, legislators would consider expanding it.

During the meeting Sen. Luke Kenley voiced concern about the cost of that program if it expands statewide.

Instead of the pilot program, the Senate panel voted to track students at academically-oriented preschools and see how their kindergarten readiness scores stack up against other students.

House Education Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) acknowledges House and Senate Republicans disagree on the value of preschool. Still, he says House Republicans are committed to preschool, and he is pleased some form of the bill made it out of committee.

“It‘s not at all near where we had hoped it would be, but at least it‘s still moving, which is positive,” he says. “Unfortunately, it took the Democrats, probably, to get it out, which may mean I may have more issues on the floor.”

The committee approved the bill 8-4, with three Democrats joining five Republicans in voting yes. Three Republicans and one Democrat voted no.

A separate bill considered Thursday included an expansion of the state’s school voucher program. The committee limited that expansion by keeping a requirement that students attend at least one year of public school before becoming eligible for a voucher.

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