The counties included are Marion, Allen, Jackson, Lake and Vanderburgh. The program which will help prepare low-income 4-year-old students is expected to launch in 2015.
“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” said Gov. Pence. “Today, I am pleased to accept the recommendations of our working group. The State looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”
The pilot program was a key piece of the governor’s legislative agenda for 2014, and an issue that House lawmakers have also tried to move forward on in recent years. It was nearly derailed in the Senate, which decided to form a study committee to look into the issue instead, before an agreement was finally reached to form both a study committee and launch a pilot program this year.
The 2014 General Assembly established the pilot program in House Enrolled Act 1004.
The compromise measure allows for a pilot program, using up to $10 million in existing state funds that were left unspent. It also mandates that the state conduct a study tracking students to determine their progress in kindergarten and later grades.
Last month, 18 counties were selected as finalists by the Indiana Family Social Services Administration (FSSA). Each county submitted a statement for consideration, which reflected input from more than 100 respondents, including nonprofits, businesses and business leaders, school corporations, private providers, colleges and universities, and representatives of local government.
“The broad participation and expertise represented in the county submissions demonstrates not only the success of the county selection approach, which was specifically designed to encourage collaboration, but also the high level of interest in early learning across the state,” said Melanie Brizzi, Director of FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out of School Learning.
“We are grateful for all 18 counties who participated in this process and submitted high-quality applications. These five counties demonstrated the highest levels of readiness, capacity and financial commitment to implement Indiana's first state-funded pre-K program,” said Pence.
Gov. Pence also recognized the 13 other finalists – Bartholomew, Delaware, Elkhart, Grant, Howard, Kosciusko, Lawrence, Madison, Noble, St. Joseph, Tippecanoe, Vigo and Wayne – for their dedication and commitment to Indiana’s children as demonstrated by their statements of county readiness.
The final five counties were selected by FSSA with the assistance of a group of objective evaluators representing academia, nonprofit and business interests.