Representatives of the five counties in Indiana’s preschool pilot program met in person with state officials for the first time Wednesday as they prepare to begin implementation.
In July, the state chose Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion, and Vanderburgh counties to implement a state-funded pre-k pilot. There are more than 15,000 children in the five counties eligible for the program, and more than 10,000 of those are considered unserved, meaning they’re not receiving federally funded early childhood education.
Governor Mike Pence says four of the five counties are prepared to begin at least partial implementation January 1st, while Jackson County – the only rural county chosen for the pilot – will need more time.
Pence says there’s a great deal of urgency to help these children, for their sake as well as the sake of the state.
“I want to get this program moving so that we can begin to learn from these programs, learn what will be the most effective way to go forward,” Pence says. “Indiana’s going to be studying these programs, studying the impact these programs are having on our kids, on their educational outcomes and then we’ll be making policy decisions about any additional programs in the future on that basis.”
The pilot program is expected to initially serve around 1,400 kids between the five counties. Officials say they hope that number will eventually reach about 2,000.
Pence also says he will adhere to his agreement with the legislature not to seek an expansion of pre-k next session.
Melanie Brizzi, director of the Family and Social Services Administration‘s Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning, says county leaders will continue to collaborate to ensure the successful launch of their program.
“It is through working together through innovative and collaborative partnerships, under the passionate and motivated leadership that we will be successful in developing a strong pilot that will make a lasting difference for low-income 4-year-olds in these counties,” Brizzi said in a statement.
FSSA is continuing its work to implement the major design phases of the program, which include devising plans for a longitudinal study for students, as well as monitoring the design and implementation of a new kindergarten readiness assessment.