Updated 4:46 p.m.:
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz is urging Gov. Mike Pence to reconsider applying for federal money to support pre-k, due to a last-minute deadline extension by the U.S. Department of Education.
The grant, aimed at states that have a great need for pre-K infrastructure, could provide up to $80 million in federal investment for early childhood education.
Indiana is one of only 16 states eligible to apply.
The original deadline to submit the grant application was Oct. 15. The U.S. Education Department, along with the Department of Health and Human Services, announced today that they have extended that deadline to Oct. 22.
In a statement, Ritz says the grant is a “once in a decade opportunity” to invest in early childhood education that could greatly impact children and families. She adds members of both political parties have supported the state’s application.
“The Indiana Department of Education has spent hundreds of hours working with the Family and Social Services Administration on our grant application. The work is done, all the application needs now is Governor Pence’s signature,” Ritz said in a statement. “Governor Pence has repeatedly stated his support for creating a high-quality system for early childhood education for Indiana. Now, Indiana needs his actions to back up his words. I am calling on Governor Pence to do the right thing for Indiana’s students and families and submit this grant application.”
In response to Ritz’s request, Pence issued a statement of his own, reiterating that he does not plan to resubmit the application:
“While I respect the views of those who support applying for federal Pre-k funding, I stand by my decision. Federal funding does not guarantee success. This is not about the money, it’s about our children and we have an obligation to get it right. Our administration will remain focused on the successful launch of the five county Pre-k pilot program approved by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year.”
Back in August, when the U.S. Department of Education announced which states were eligible for the grant, Ritz told StateImpact if the state received the money she wanted to use it to put all preschools in Indiana on the same level and work with families.