A pilot program aimed at providing pre-kindergarten educational opportunities for low-income Hoosier kids was stripped out of a bill in a Senate committee Wednesday. The program – a major initiative of Governor Mike Pence – was replaced with a mandated study of the issue.
Proposed legislation passed overwhelmingly by the House created a framework for a preschool pilot program. It would have served about a thousand four-year-olds in five counties, with funding to kick in next year.
But an amendment, approved by the Senate Education committee, scuttles the pilot and instead creates a study committee this summer.
Senate Republican fiscal leader Luke Kenley – who authored the amendment – says the study will look at several facets of pre-k education, including corporate partnership possibilities, parental involvement and preschool standards in other states.
“The whole effort is to try to put this thing in a position where we can have a product that would be worthy of our consideration," Kenly says. "If it should be funded, and then put us in a position next year that we can debate, among all budgeting priorities, as to where we want to spend our money.”
Avon Republican Senator Pete Miller, the bill’s sponsor, says he wanted to see the original legislation move forward.
“There is a need here and it is a vested interest of the state, and I think we’ve done that here," Miller says. "But I also appreciate Senator Kenley’s concerns that we want to address that need in the most efficient and effective manner as we can.”
Governor Mike Pence made the preschool program one of the cornerstones of his legislative agenda and even testified on its behalf in the Senate Education committee last week.
In a statement, the governor’s office says Pence looks forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to advance the initiative. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.