State Chooses Lake, 4 Other Counties For Pre-school Pilot Program

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July 23, 2014 — Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith reports.

INDIANAPOLIS – Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties will be part of the state’s preschool pilot program for low-income children.

Gov. Mike Pence said at the Keynote Rotary Club of Indianapolis meetingthat the program will start in early 2015, although last month his office said it wouldn’t be ready until later that fall.

The governor said the date has been moved up because the selected counties will be ready earlier than anticipated.

State officials chose the counties from among 18 finalists that had applied to be among the first to receive state funding under a law the General Assembly passed this year.

“We didn’t want to lose sight of the fact that this a pilot program, so we wanted to choose communities where there was a demonstrated need and an existing capacity to meet that need,” Pence said. “And I’m very confident about the five counties that were recommended to us.”

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration reviewed county applications to participate with the assistance of a group of evaluators representing academia, nonprofit and business interests.

The program will fund pre-kindergarten programs that are delivered by accredited private and public schools or by community-based programs that have achieved Level 3 or 4 in the state’s Paths to QUALITY voluntary childcare quality rating system.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Pence, who pushed lawmakers to create a pre-K program. “The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

The programs will be funded through local funds matched with as much as $10 million from FSSA.

State officials say the program could provide pre-K classes for at least 1,000 and as many as 4,000 low-income children. The number depends in part on how much private money is raised to help fund the program.

To qualify, a student’s family could earn no more than 127 percent of the federal poverty limit. That’s about $28,380 for a family of four.

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she’s pleased that Lake County was chosen to participate.

“As a public school teacher, I have seen the benefits of early childhood education,” Rogers said in a statement. “Quality programs can close our current achievement gap, raise our graduation rates while lowering the costs of remediation, and can serve as a long-term economic development tool for the state.”

Pence said he was “humbled” to be a part of providing Indiana state-funded pre-school.

But Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, called the current pilot program “bittersweet” because it doesn’t apply statewide. Still, Goodin said he’s pleased his school district – where he serves as superintendent – will be among those participating in the pilot.

“We should be doing an all-out pre-school program,” Goodin said. “It’s a must for Jackson County and it’s a must for the state of Indiana.”

Indiana is one of a handful of states that doesn’t put state money into pre-school.

“At least there is some recognition that it needs to be done,” Goodin said. “Indiana is way behind the curve on having a pre-school program.”


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