Business, Nonprofit Leaders Want More Aggressiveness In Pre-K Piloting

Oct 7, 2014

Some lawmakers point to the federal Head Start program, call it a waste of money, and worry Indiana will follow suit.
Credit Barnaby Wasson / https://www.flickr.com/photos/barnabywasson/27991131

Some Indiana corporate leaders are urging legislators to double down next year on a preschool pilot program. In January, the state will begin financial aid for low-income pupils to attend preschool in five counties.

PNC Bank regional vice president Connie Bond Stuart urged legislators not to sit still while they‘re awaiting the results of the pilot program. She says there‘s work to be done to expand Indiana‘s preschool capacity, through program expansions, teacher training, and parental outreach.

And United Way of Central Indiana vice president Jay Geshay says his agency will ask legislators to include preschool in the new school funding formula.

But Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) argues the federal Head Start program hasn‘t delivered results in half a century, meaning lawmakers should tread carefully with the Indiana program.

"We've had Head Start for almost 50 years," Lucas says. "And there recently was a study to come out that did an evaluation of Head Start. And [it] showed basically no gains are being made, even though we're throwing billions of dollars at this issue. How is this going to be different?"

Sixteen northeast Indiana CEO‘s signed a letter telling legislators to keep the momentum going for preschool. Indiana Chamber vice president Derek Redelman says the pilot is really more about how to run the program effectively, not whether preschool works. But some legislators are wary of investing more state money.

Rep. Rhonda Rhoads (R-Corydon), a retired teacher, says she‘d like to see data indicating whether full-day kindergarten has delivered on similar promises of educational improvement.