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Pre-K expansion bill awaiting Gov. Holcomb’s signature

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A bill that would expand pre-kindergarten options around Indiana could soon become law.

The legislation was approved by lawmakers and is now heading to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk for approval.

The measure would expand On My Way Pre-K, the state’s pre-K pilot program that was established in 2014. It currently serves nearly 2,300 students in Allen, Lake, Marion, Jackson and Vanderburgh counties. House Bill 1004 would add up to 15 additional counties to the program and potentially quadruple the amount of low-income families who participate.

Eligibility requirements would remain the same as they currently stand, with the income threshold at 127 percent of the federal poverty level. If programs are at capacity in the five original counties, the threshold could increase to 185 percent of the federal poverty level to reach more families. Priority would go to children most in need in rural counties.

“It is my hope that as this pilot program continues, more at-risk four-year-olds will receive high-quality early education and be able to excel academically and socially when they enter kindergarten,” said Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), chair of the House Committee on Education. “A critical demographic that is missing from the current program is our rural children. This proposal prioritizes rural communities and incorporates online, in-home learning programs.”

Funding for the program would be provided in the state’s biennial budget.

Gov. Holcomb issued the following statement:

“I’m thrilled our lawmakers are providing thousands of low-income Hoosier families access to high quality early education. This important legislation gives more children in more counties the chance to start their educational journey on the right foot. It will be a joy to sign this bill into law.”