Lawmakers discuss future of pre-K funding

Indiana lawmakers discuss future of pre-k funding. WLFI/File Photo

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana lawmakers are staying busy at the Statehouse during the 2017 legislative session.

One of issues on the table — the future of state-funded pre-K.

“Early education is proven to be a very positive step forward for children,” said Dem. State Rep. Sheila Klinker.

“Pre-K is something that every legislator knows we want, we need and we intend to have,” State Rep. Sally Siegrist said.

In 2015, Indiana rolled out the On My Way Pre-K pilot program in five counties. It provides fully funded pre-K for low-income children.

With an original price tag of $10 million a year, Gov. Eric Holcomb wanted to double that. The Senate Appropriations Committee only wants to set aside a fraction of that.

“Due to the fact that we’re dealing with road infrastructure funding and several other issues, the leadership in the Senate and the House said that it’s just one step at a time,” said Klinker.

Klinker hopes that number can be brought back up.

“It will probably be somewhere in the middle, frankly, because the agreement on both sides is very important,” Klinker said.

Siegrist said the program is on track for expansion.

“It will be now that there will be 10 counties with fully funded Level 3 and Level 4 pre-K, which means that it is very good pre-K,” said Siegrist.

Both Siegrist and Klinker said they’d like to see statewide funding someday. But that could take some time.

Siegrist said it costs around $6,500 to put each child through, and she added there are more than 100,000 prekindergarten-aged Hoosier children.

“I think we all know that pre-K is vital and we will keep expanding it as quickly as we can, as long as we remain responsible,” Siegrist said.

Klinker said it’s still unknown which additional five counties will receive funding.

She said Indiana is just one of three states that don’t have a fully-funded statewide program.