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Indiana: Early Childhood Battle Continues

Indiana is just one of a few states without comprehensive Pre-K programs. (Ona Mora)
Indiana is just one of a few states without comprehensive Pre-K programs. (Ona Mora)
July 11, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The battle for quality Pre-K education in Indiana continues as the November election draws near. Governor Mike Pence had pushed for a pilot program called On My Way Pre-K, but then rejected millions of dollars in federal funding. Pence is in a tough battle for re-election, and has expressed renewed interest in the federal money. State Superintendent of Schools Glenda Ritz, who's also running in November, is the only Democrat elected to statewide office in Indiana. She wants a universal Pre-K education program that would offer free preschool to all students, regardless of family income. Ted Maple, president and CEO of Early Learning Indiana, said right now Hoosier children are missing out on quality education.

"What we know and have known for some time is that success starts early, and when children have access to experiences and programs that provide great learning opportunities, great interaction with adults and other children, they'll develop strong academic and social skills that will better prepare them for school," he said.

On My Way Pre-K began in 2015 in Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh counties. Pence has said he wanted to make sure it worked before applying for federal funds. Ritz said Indiana is "years behind" because of Pence's "political showboating."

Maple said support is building to expand the pilot program to other counties.

"We do have a chance to build on what we started and act now and give many more children in Indiana access to quality pre-K this year, and we have heard from many of our state leaders that they are in support of this, and we are too," he added.

The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University said Indiana is one of just a handful of states that does not offer a significant pre-kindergarten program.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN