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Indiana House approves pilot preschool program

In what state lawmakers call a first step in helping bolster early childhood education, the House Monday passed legislation creating a preschool pilot program. It would study the feasibility of a statewide preschool program by providing up to $6,800 to low-income families to send their children to a high-quality preschool as accredited by the state.  The program would only be available in five counties and would be capped at $7 million.

Representative Suzanne Crouch (R-Evansville) is one of the bill’s co-sponsors. She says the program doesn’t just make educational sense, it makes business sense.

“The return on investment in high-quality early childhood education ranges from 17 to 18 dollars for every dollar invested.  Current workers will be able to find and afford quality early care and education, making them more productive employees.”

Some Democrats expressed concern with a provision of the bill that makes all participants in the program eligible for the school voucher program.  But Representative Shelli VanDenburgh (D-Crown Point) says the issue is too important to hold up on those grounds.

“I just looked at it as state assistance to those who need it most.  You can call it a scholarship; you can call it whatever you want but the money is going to those who need it.”

The bill passed 92 to 6.  It now moves to the Senate.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.