Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Could More Pre-K Scholarships Save The State Money?

    A preschool student in Columbus works in her classroom. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

    A preschool student in Columbus works in her classroom. (Photo Credit: Rachel Morello/StateImpact Indiana)

    At a legislative study committee Wednesday, a group of preschool advocates asked members to propose an increase in state funded, high quality pre-K opportunities for low-income families. The group of advocates includes members from large Indiana businesses, including Eli Lilly, PNC Bank and the United Way.

    Indiana is one of eight states without a publicly funded pre-K program. It is currently piloting a program, On My Way Pre-Kwhich gives scholarships to a few hundred students in five counties.

    More pre-K opportunities for low-income families have been funded by Indiana-based corporations, which have donated millions of dollars over the last few years.

    As we reported Wednesday, legislators are not embracing the requests for an additional state investment. And some lawmakers say the price is high, and they aren’t confident the expansion is sustainable.

    But those advocating for pre-K scholarships for low-income children say, if you get a four-year-old into a good preschool program, the state won’t have to spend as much money on other educational needs down the road.

    “The elected officials have to sometimes step outside the normal boundaries of the normal government financial decision making and say what are were going to spend money on, make a decision on, what are we going to invest in,” says Michael O’Connor, Director of State Government Affairs for Eli Lilly.

    To underline this point for legislators, the group commissioned an economic impact report that outlines the longterm savings of preschool.

    A group of researchers from Indiana University compiled the report, and here are some of the findings:

    • For every dollar spent on pre-K, the state will receive up to four dollars in return.
    • If the state funded pre-K for low-income children, it would see an estimated 12 percent reduction in kids needing special education services.
    • If there was state funded pre-K for low-income children, the state would see an estimated 18 percent reduction in students who repeat grades and need remediation services.
    • The reduction in special education, remediation and grade repetition would save the state between $19 and $48 million dollars.
    • Research also shows that students who attend high quality pre-K are less likely to be involved in crime later in life. In Indiana, this could be a state savings of $63 to $162 million dollars.



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