INDIANAPOLIS – Some Indiana lawmakers and advocacy groups want the state to expand access to pre-kindergarten.
Amy Cavin says she sees the benefits of early childhood education firsthand through her work at Day Early Learning Center, which has 11 locations across Central Indiana.
“You see that progression of them learning those tools,” Cavin said.
But she’s also seen the barriers families face getting their children enrolled.
“It does become the financial burden, the available seats,” Cavin said.
State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) said that’s why he believes the state needs to expand access to pre-k.
He sees urgency following last year’s IREAD scores, which show roughly one in five Hoosier third graders can’t read proficiently.
“That is the most significant and helpful strategy to help students by third grade be able to master reading and improve their math skills,” Qaddoura said.
Qaddoura said he wants the Indiana General Assembly to take steps toward universal pre-K for four-year-olds.
He also plans to introduce a bill to expand the income eligibility for On My Way Pre-K, a state program providing pre-K grants to low-income families of four-year-olds, he added.
“There are many families who made a little bit more than the existing eligibility threshold, so they were kicked off of those scholarships,” Qaddoura said.
Advocacy groups like Early Learning Indiana are also calling for expanded income eligibility for the program.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of federal dollars that has brought new attention to what’s happening in early education, and we continue to experience the workforce crisis that has a lot of people paying attention,” said Erin Kissling, chief learning officer for Early Learning Indiana. “So I hope that this session will give us some really good results.”
State Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), who chairs the Senate Education committee, said he believes the state has more work to do before considering pre-K for all four-year-olds.
As for his ideas for next session, he would like to see On My Way Pre-K run by the Indiana Department of Education rather than the Family and Social Services Administration, he said.
“It’s a separation of child care and education in which we’ve traditionally done,” Raatz said, calling the potential move “a beginning point, not necessarily expansion.”
State data shows 6,230 Hoosier four-year-olds are enrolled in the state’s On My Way Pre-K program.