INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana House voted 92-6 Monday to establish a preschool pilot program providing tuition support for up to 1,000 4-year-olds to attend preschool in five to-be-determined counties.
House Bill 1004, which now goes to the Senate, allows parents in the designated counties who meet income eligibility guidelines to claim a preschool voucher worth up to $6,800.
Students would be required to attend at least 180 days of preschool in a year to qualify. The legislation mandates parents be actively involved in the preschool program.
"I think this is a great first step," said state Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, a co-sponsor of the measure.
Behning said low-income parents typically read to their children for just 24 hours from birth until kindergarten. That compares to more than 1,400 hours for middle- and upper-income earners.
He said allowing families of three earning less than $35,317 a year or families of four earning less than $42,643 to claim a preschool voucher will give those children a leg up and be better for the state.
Under the legislation, preschool voucher recipients would automatically be entitled to receive a private school voucher for kindergarten through 12th grade.
The proposal was co-sponsored by state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point.
She said Indiana needs to do even more to promote early childhood education, including making kindergarten attendance mandatory.