INDIANAPOLIS – The Senate Education and Career Development Committee heard testimony on a bill that would create a pilot program allowing about 1,000 students from five Indiana counties to attend a quality, certified preschool.
“Statistics show that kids from poverty will show up at Kindergarten about about a year or year and half behind,” said Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, author of House Bill 1004.
The bill passed the House by a wide margin last month, but Behning admits it faces a much tougher challenge in the state Senate.
The House-passed budget includes $7 million a year for Behning’s pilot program, but key Senate lawmakers wonder how the state would pay for the program, if it were eventually expanded.
“(That would) be another $200 to $500 million exercise,” said state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. “Frankly, I’m always reluctant to start down the path of one of these situations without knowing that I can deliver on a full basis.”
“The goal of this bill is to create a model, a program and track the students to see if it actually works,” said Behning.
A local preschool director told Fox 59 she supported the idea.
“The need is out there,” said Kay Hugus, director at Abacus Child Care Center in Indianapolis. “Whatever anybody can do to support that, I think it’s a beneficial thing and I’m all for it.”
The bill will also have to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Kenley.
Coincidentally, the debate in the Senate comes just a day after Indianapolis Public Schools announced it was cutting back on a proposal that would have provided free preschool education for up to 1,400 more children. The new IPS plan cuts that number down to less than 500.