Hoosier Lawmakers Expect Pre-K Debate in 2014

Nov 25, 2013

Indiana lawmakers say the issue of whether the state should expand publicly-funded preschool options will likely come up again in the upcoming session, but opponents remain concerned about how much a state-run pre-K program would cost.

Indiana Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville).

Leaders of both political parties have expressed support for re-visiting the issue after a bid to create a $7 million preschool pilot program passed the Indiana House, but stalled in the Senate. 

Noblesville Republican Luke Kenley heads the Senate Appropriations Committee and says lawmakers haven’t figured out what they want — much less, how to pay for it.

“Everybody just keeps saying, 'We want pre-K,'” Kenley said, “and I've never even had an explanation of what services they want or what their objectives would be.”

One low-end estimate puts the cost of a state-run pre-K program at nearly $70 million. But House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning says early childhood education reduces the likelihood a child will be incarcerated later in life and cuts down on costly catch-up work for students who come to school unprepared:

“It actually could end up saving us some money in terms of remediation, in terms of changing the trajectory for some of these students so that they do have opportunities in life outside of criminal justice,” Behning said.

It’s not clear what form preschool legislation will take, but Behning says he’ll propose a bill this session that’s similar to one senators scaled back last session.