INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana has taken a tentative step toward joining the 41 other states that use tax revenue to fund preschool education.
Gov. Mike Pence was surrounded by children at an Indianapolis church-affiliated preschool Thursday when he signed into law House Enrolled Act 1004, creating a pilot preschool voucher program to provide early education classes for at least 1,400 low-income children in five to-be-determined counties.
The new law redirects up to $10 million in existing federal, state and grant funds to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, which will pay between $2,500 and $6,800 per child to send eligible 4-year-olds to high-quality public, private or religious prekindergarten education programs starting this fall.
"When it comes to our most at-risk and low-income kids, early learning programs can and do make the difference between a lifetime of success and a lifetime of falling behind, falling back and sometimes dropping out," Pence said.
The Republican governor initially sought a preschool voucher program for up to 40,000 low-income children. Senate Republicans concerned about cost forced him to significantly scale back that goal.
Pence at times also had to rely on Democrats, who have for years championed state-funded preschool, to keep his proposal alive. He thanked House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, who attended the signing ceremony, for helping shepherd the measure through the Legislature.
Five Northwest Indiana legislators cosponsored the new preschool law: state Reps. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond; Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso; and Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point; and state Sens. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; and Earline Rogers, D-Gary.