INDANAPOLIS – On the final day of the 2017 legislative session, the Senate approved a measure to expand prekindergarten education in Indiana. The conference committee report on House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1004 included language to limit the expansion of the pre-K pilot program from all 92 Indiana counties to just 15 additional counties, among other provisions.
“I think it is important that Indiana expand early education to all Hoosier children,” State Senator Eddie Melton (D-Merrillville) said. “Although this specific proposal is limited in a number of ways, including its expansion of vouchers and its allocation of a large portion of the funding to a new online, in-home program, I voted for the bill because it will still provide more children access to quality pre-school programming.”
Sen. Melton disagreed strongly with adding language to the bill to expand vouchers and create an online pre-K program, but still felt the proposal needed to proceed due to the importance of early childhood education. The ‘On My Way Pre-K’ program was still included in HEA 1004 and the local match percentage was lowered from 10 percent to five percent, allowing local counties a greater opportunity to fund pre-K programs. The conference committee report included an additional $9 million in new money to fund traditional pre-K programs in the projected 20 pilot counties.
“Although this is not a broad enough approach to address the need for pre-K expansion in Indiana,” Sen. Melton said. “I do feel that it is important that we continue to make progress in our efforts to ensure that all children, especially those families that cannot afford to send their children to pre-K, are still receiving that vital early education.”
The Senate approved the conference committee report 31-19 while the House of Representatives approved the measure 82-16. HEA 1004 now moves to the Governor for final consideration.