Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

As Indiana Looks To Spread Pre-K, Online Option Sparks Controversy

The bill looking to expand state funded pre-k also allocates $1 million for in-home digital preschool learning. (photo credit: Sonia Hooda/flickr)

The bill looking to expand state funded pre-k also allocates $1 million for in-home digital preschool learning. (photo credit: Sonia Hooda/flickr)

One of the biggest education bills this session seeks to expand the current pre-K pilot program, but the current version of the bill includes funding a new, home school preschool option.

One part of the bill allocates $1 million per year for digital preschool services for families to use at home.

Lawmakers have indicated if this part of the bill remains in tact, the state will use an online program called Upstart to provide families with digital, in-home preschool.

Parents can use Upstart’s online program at home, and according to the website, a child who uses the program 15 minutes a day, five days a week will be ready for kindergarten, according to an assessment children take after completing the year-long program. The Utah Department of Education currently uses the program, which focuses on reading skills. Schools in New Albany, Indiana, recently adopted the program to help boost reading skills for kindergarten through second grade students.

Claudia Minor, executive director of Upstart, says if a family already has internet access the program costs $1,000 per year, and if they need internet and a computer, it is $2,000 a year. That figure falls below state-funded tuition for in person pre-K, which can cost up to $5,000 per child per year.

Preschool advocates rally against the digital model. They say limited funds should be used to support brick-and-mortar preschool providers which have had proven results. They also argue digital learning cannot replace a trained teacher.

Lawmakers forming the state budget will likely decided whether or not to allocate state-funding for digital in-home preschool. Lawmakers generally hear the budget last during the session. This year’s legislative session is expected to end Friday, April 21.


  • Dee

    Indiana Association of Home Educators (IAHE) has been encouraging and equipping Indiana parents to teach their children at home since 1983. Preschool does not have to be expensive. Parents are their child’s first teacher. IAHE would love to help Hoosier parents learn how to teach their children. Our services are free.

    Here are some of our articles about preschool:

    Indiana parents have been very successful in teaching their children at home. See what their children are doing after graduation:

    • Ame Allen

      Agreed Debi. This is a crazy amount of money for something parents can easily do on their own, which would benefit the child (and parent!) much more!

  • Anita Kufeldt-Shelton

    I think we need to encourage parents to work with their children at home, but not on the taxpayers dime. There are MANY online companies that will do much more than just read to the child. The parent can and should be doing that anyway. This is a waste of money, and I can’t see that there will be any benefit to the child. How would you test it at 3rd grad anyway?

  • Jennifer Crowley Denison-Reese

    My local school gave me a flyer with information about free options for programs that will help my son be prepared for Kindergarten. So I don’t see why the price tag. There are plenty of free options.

  • Debwoolsey

    No, no, NO!! This is an absolutely ridiculous idea.

    The local public library is free. You don’t need a trained teacher. There are so many resources available for free at the library and online. No computer you say? Guess what? The library has computers, too.

    There have been no long-term studies that show extensive gains for those attending preschool other than one, very old, very low sample study, and the money spent was way more than what is spent per current student at any grade level.

    Please do not waste our tax dollars for this!

  • Kurt J Fiech

    Kinda funny. Home school parents already do this without spending tax dollars. Why has state education sunk so low to want to spend hard earned taxpayer’s money on this?

  • TheBookLady

    No. It’s not that exposing kids to literacy is a bad idea, but this is not the way.

    1: I do not want or need the government in my home between my children and I.
    2. To kids, it’s just another beeping electronic thing. Real literacy is modeled by adults who read. Sadly, they’re not in every home.
    3. Rather than spend the money on this, why not offer parenting mentors who model that literacy and show parents from families who don’t model literacy how the literate live? Produce a few films that show real people in their homes: for example, right now, one of my kids is stretched out on the couch reading a book. My husband came in and sat down and read a magazine. There are bookshelves in every room in the house. There are magazines on tables. My older daughter will read after her homework is done. My son will sit down and read anywhere at any time. We all read to fall asleep at night.

    Make those films, and show how families who raise college-bound children live. Most inner city and poor rural folk probably really have no idea that pattern of someone’s day who is going to a different destination than their own. Don’t make one. Make 5 or 6 “shadow” films, like documentaries. Set up a mentor system with volunteers. THAT would be worth it.

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