Governor Mike Pence has halted the application for a federal preschool grant that could have provided the state with up to $80 million in early childhood education funding.
The Indianapolis Star is reporting that an email sent from Pence’s office to the Early Learning Advisory Committee explains his reasoning for pulling the application:
In Wednesday’s email, Early Learning Advisory Committee Chairman Kevin Bain, a Pence appointee, announced that the “administration has decided not to submit the federal pre-K grant application.”
He then posted a statement from the administration. “While accepting federal grant dollars can at times be justified to advance our state’s objectives,” it reads in part, “when it comes to early childhood education, I believe Indiana must develop our own pre-K program for disadvantaged children without federal intrusion.”
The deadline for the grant was October 14. A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education declined official comment but said the IDOE spent a lot of time on the grant application.
Senator Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the decision. “The Governor owes those of us who have labored hard to get our state on board and see the benefits of early childhood education more than just a statement,” Lanane said. “It seems imprudent that we reject $80 million because of fear of some speculative ‘pitfalls’ and ‘unproven objectives’ perceived attached to them. I fear this is a setback for the advancement of the welfare of the children of our state that we know will be improved by Indiana moving swiftly to implement early childhood education.”
The developmental grant, issued through the U.S. Department of Education, is available to states lacking pre-k infrastructure to serve more than 10 percent of the state’s preschool-aged population.
Only 16 states are eligible for this specific grant, including Indiana.
Pence has not publicly announced the state’s removal from the application process and calls to his office went unanswered. Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved a new, state-run pre-k pilot program, which is only available in five counties and will begin in most places January.