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Despite momentum, push to pay for preschool stalls again

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INDIANAPOLIS — A plan to put more four-year-olds in school early hit a major hurdle Wednesday, as the Senate Education Committee put the brakes on the proposal.

The bill, which passed the House, would have started a pilot program to give vouchers to young children living in poverty.

Bill authors cited studies that show kids who start behind in Kindergarten often never catch up, leading to higher drop out rates and crime rates.

Senator Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, proposed an amendment to the bill, forcing it into a summer study committee for more research.

“My concern is to make sure that if we do this, number one we have a really good program and number two that we can fund it properly,” Kenley said.

Early education leaders met for a United Way summit on the same day the bill stalled. Connie Sherman, who runs St. Mary’s Child Center, was one of many disappointed by the decision.

“There are children out there that are waiting for services that can change their lives,” Sherman said.

Gov. Mike Pence has also thrown his support behind the bill, making the rare step last week of testifying before the committee.

“I’m just convinced that this an idea whose time has come (and) that we can do it in a responsible way,” Pence said.

Senators said they hope to expand the program beyond just a pilot once they get answers. This marks the second year in a row the bill surrounding funding for Pre-K has failed to pass the Senate.