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Pre-K voucher program could cost IN $60M

One of Governor Mike Pence’s legislative priorities is passing a voucher-style pre-K program for four year olds. While there’s popular support for early learning among Hoosier lawmakers, it would not be cheap.

About 10,000 of the roughly 40,000 low-income kids who would qualify for state-funded preschool each year under Pence’s proposal are already enrolled in Head Start. And it’s unlikely that every one of the remaining 30,000 four year olds would participate, says Brookings Institute fellow Russ Whitehurst.

"Best guess I would have about participation rates would be by looking at participation rates for example in Georgia, which has a universal program. For low income families, it’s about 50%."

That would be 15,000 students. And at roughly $4,000 per pupil the costs would add up fast — to at least $60 million a year. Last year lawmakers balked at spending $7 million on a small-scale pilot. In a non-budget year, finding funding to pay for Pence’s plan could be even harder.

Elle Moxley reports for StateImpact Indiana.

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