2014 Indiana General Assembly

Preschool politics makes for strange bedfellows

2014-02-24T18:15:00Z 2014-02-24T22:39:14Z Preschool politics makes for strange bedfellowsDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
February 24, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Senate Republicans stood by their decision to gut Republican Gov. Mike Pence's proposal for a preschool voucher program, even as Senate Democrats repeatedly tried Monday to piece it back together.

House Bill 1004 would have provided preschool vouchers for up to 1,000 low-income 4-year-olds in five to-be-determined counties. It was rewritten last week by state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, to create a commission tasked with studying how best to implement preschool in Indiana.

With the legislation open Monday for changes offered by any member of the Senate, state Sen. John Broden, D-South Bend, proposed restoring the House-approved version of the legislation and including Kenley's study commission.

"We strongly believe and side with the governor and the House of Representatives that we need to move forward on pre-k education this year. We can't wait," Broden said. "To that end, we're hoping for bipartisan support."

He didn't get it. Broden's proposal was rejected 36-11.

Kenley said the House-approved preschool pilot program supported by the governor is costly and comes in the middle of the two-year budget cycle.

He said it would be better to study the issue over the summer and then put preschool funding on the table with everything else when the state's new budget is crafted next year.

"At $10 million a year, that's a pretty expensive approach to this when you don't even have the thing synthesized in your own mind yet," Kenley said.

A second Broden effort to put language in the Indiana Code that would allow the state to compete for federal preschool funds was defeated 35-12 on a party-line vote.

Broden won Senate approval to add a member of the state's Early Learning Advisory Committee to the preschool study commission.

The Senate is expected to approve its preschool proposal in coming days. Then it likely will go to a House-Senate conference committee, where lawmakers from both chambers will try to hammer out a compromise plan.

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