INDIANAPOLIS | Democrat John Gregg on Thursday pledged to launch a state-funded prekindergarten program and provide Indiana parents a child care tax credit, if he's elected governor.
"We need to do this to make sure that our young Hoosiers are as prepared as they can be when they enter the global economy," Gregg said. "That means to get them ready so they can do absolutely the most they can once they start school."
Indiana spends no state funds on prekindergarten for 4-year-olds and the state has one of the lowest enrollment rates for low-income students in the federally funded Head Start prekindergarten program.
Gregg, a former Head Start volunteer, said he would establish "more than a couple handfuls" of prekindergarten programs at existing schools and licensed day care centers throughout the state for a two- or three-year test to see how much children benefit from prekindergarten and whether parents demand it.
A successful pilot program would lead to expanded prekindergarten availability, Gregg said.
"Academically, 4- and 5-year-olds are like a sponge and if we're going to have them absorb as much of the knowledge and opportunities they have, we've got to start," Gregg said. "It's our responsibility as a society to help these children."
The former Indiana House speaker also wants to provide parents a tax credit for child care needs. The undetermined credit would enable low- and moderate-income parents unable to afford day care to work outside the home, he said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence has yet to announce a plan for early childhood education.