Lawmakers to focus on Pre-K as Indiana struggles with gender equality

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana is among the worst places for working women and the lack of a statewide Pre-K program may be partly to blame, according to a new study.

24/7 Wall St. ranks the Hoosier state 44th when it comes to gender equality. Hoosier women earn about 76 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job and only about 41% of management jobs in the state are held by women.

One of the leading factors the study points to for the inequality is the lack of a statewide tax paid Pre-K program. Indiana currently has a pilot program in five counties including Marion County. Rep. Terri Austin (D-Anderson) said it's time to expand that program.

"My hope was that we would start to see a broad expansion of that this legislative session. What I’m hearing is that the administration and some legislative leaders want to take a more go slow approach," said Austin.

State Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle) said he will file legislation this upcoming session to expand the Pre-K pilot program.

"It tends to make sense to me that if you give kids this jump start early on it's only going to clear the path and make it easier for them when they get into the school system."

Rep. Austin said the state should also encourage women to pursue high paying STEM jobs, help mid-career women get a degree or additional skills, and do more to make sure women-owned businesses are getting a fair chance at state contracts.

"We give billions of dollars away every year, but we have done nothing to address the fact that we continue to sanction women earning less when the taxpayers are paying the bill," said Austin. "I'm hoping that the new administration will put forth some bold proposals, because to me they’re bread and butter issues for families."

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