Thirteen years ago this week, Gov. Joe Kernan announced he would establish the Early Learning and School Readiness Commission to support the goal of a preschool through college learning continuum.
Kernan was defeated by Mitch Daniels in November and the commission was soon disbanded. Children who were 4-year-olds when Kernan pushed for preschool will graduate from high school next year, but Indiana has taken only baby steps toward a serious investment in early childhood learning. And in spite of support from newly elected Gov. Eric Holcomb, prospects look dim in the current session of the General Assembly.
The Senate Education and Career Development Committee approved House Bill 1004 last week, wisely stripping a $10.5 million provision that would have made preschoolers enrolled in the state’s On My Way Pre-K program eligible for K-12 vouchers. But the committee, whose chair is Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, amended the House bill to look like its own Senate Bill 276, which adds only $3 million a year to the five-county pilot program that began in mid-2015.
The House version would have added $10 million a year to the pilot program, which last year cost $8.3 million and served 1,585 four-year-olds. Holcomb supports spending an additional $20 million over the biennium.