In Indiana, 3,680 children under the age of three are served by Early Head Start. In addition, 10 percent of 3-year-olds and 14.5 percent of 4-year-olds are served through federal Head Start and special education preschool. However, the state currently does not fund a state-run pre-K program. Indiana Governor Mike Pence has championed establishing a voluntary pre-K voucher program to expand early education opportunities for low-income children and the pilot program is moving forward. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $8,073.
- What state leaders are saying: In his State of the State Address, Gov. Mike Pence said, “Because every child deserves to start school ready to learn, I believe the time has come for a voluntary pre-K program to help Indiana’s low-income kids.” In support of this belief, the governor recently signed into law a preschool pilot program, which will pay for children in five counties to attend early learning programs. Gov. Pence had originally hoped for a statewide program. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has also been vocal about expanding early learning in the state, touting his proposed $50 million preschool program, which would provide services to about 1,300 4-year-olds from low-income families.
- What’s happening in the legislature: This year, the state legislature approved the first ever state-funded pre-K program in Indiana, defeating concerns over cost and effectiveness. The voluntary voucher-style pilot program, which has been advocated by the governor, will soon be available to five counties to be chosen by an executive committee. House Education Chairman Bob Behning, who authored the law, recommends the pilot program begin in the fall of 2015 and Gov. Mike Pence has been tasked with finding $10 million to fund the first year of the program to serve around 1,000 children.
- Support from the business community: The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, activated by research showing the economic benefits of early childhood education, has shown complete support for the state’s pre-k pilot program. Since the announcement of the proposal in Gov. Mike Pence’s State of the State Address, the chamber has lobbied legislators to create more early learning opportunities in the state. According to Chalkbeat Indiana, support for pre-K in the state has reached a tipping point, especially with more and more business leader vowing to continue lobbying for preschool. Pre-K advocates in the state believe that support was crucial for moving the proposal forward.
- What advocates are saying: Eric Ellsworth, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has been vocal about Indiana falling behind because the state currently lacks a pre-K program. He praised the legislature as they moved Gov. Pence’s pre-k proposal forward and urged the state leaders to continue prioritizing early childhood education. Similarly, the president and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana Ann Murtlow praised the progress being made on early childhood education and the governor’s bold leadership. However, she pushed for a greater focus on tying the program to high-quality standards.