On Thursday, the Indiana Senate signed off on a measure establishing a state-funded preschool program. House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1004 creates a five-county pre-kindergarten pilot program, enrolling as many as 3,000 4-year-olds.
“This is a victory for common sense,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane. “Moving forward with this pilot is the first step. Tomorrow we need to ensure we don’t leave middle class families behind.”
The pilot program will be open to families earning up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 for a family of four, and will utilize $10 million in reversions from the state budget and up to another $5 million in contributions. A provision linking the preschool pilot to the state’s controversial K-12 voucher program was removed in final negotiations. The measure includes a longitudinal study tied to the pilot program. Senate Democrats argued that while the pilot program is a step in the right direction, the legislature needs to commit to making quality early learning options a reality for all Hoosier children.
“The lifelong benefits of preschool have been clearly established,” said State Senator Earline Rogers. “All students deserve an opportunity to take advantage of these benefits, not just those who meet narrow income eligibility requirements.”
Senate Democrats argued that a quality preschool option is a critical part of ensuring that Hoosier children get a head start on education and develop the skills to be lifelong learners. Until the bill is signed into law, Indiana is one of only 9 states that do not provide state funding for pre-K programs after Mississippi began rollout of a state-funded option earlier this year.
The final conference committee report for HEA 1004 was approved by the Senate by a vote of 40-8, and the act now moves to the governor for his signature, veto or passage into law without his signature.
For more information on the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus agenda or other State Senate business, call 1-800-382-9467 or visit www.senatedemocrats.in.gov.
SEN. LANANE: “As I think many people know this was the number one priority for the Senate Democrat Caucus…”
SEN. ROGERS: “It’s the only fair thing to do…”