INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana legislative leaders are advocating a go-slow approach to expanding
the state-funded preschool program and warning there might be little money
to boost school spending in the next state budget.
The pre-K program
was launched in five of Indiana’s 92 counties last year to widespread
interest: Officials received applications for more than double the 2,500
openings for low-income children that the $10 million in state funding
legislators are in line with GOP Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb’s support for a
slow growth as opposed to what his election rival, Democrat John Gregg,
pushed during his campaign - adding 20,000 4-year-olds in the first year of
a statewide program.
The size of the
budget is a key factor, given that state tax revenue growth has been slower
than anticipated for the past eight months and is 1.6 percent, or about $75
million, below projections for the fiscal year that started July 1,
according to the State Budget Agency.
Speaker Brian Bosma said he believed adding 5,000 children next year - a
cost of about $20 million - could be reasonable, although state funding
should remain directed to low-income families.
“You can’t just
jump into a universal program until we’re prepared to pay for that and the
price tag is quite substantial,” Bosma said.
Legislature will be considering the preschool program expansion as part of
the new two-year state budget that will be drawn up during the session that
starts in early January.
whose 4-year-old daughter attends an Indianapolis preschool through the
state program, said she wouldn’t be able to afford the same quality of
preschool without it, and that a slow expansion would be a “big
“I think in order
for us to get our children on a path where they can compete in college and
the workforce we need to start early,” said Stumpf, who was at the
Statehouse last week with advocates supporting pre-K expansion as lawmakers
were sworn into office.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the state should be cautious, he
thinks doubling the number of counties is a “prudent move.” Currently, the
program is in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.
“It continues to
show support for the program but it doesn’t get us all-in on spending before
we have some answers,” Long said.
Some of the
outnumbered legislative Democrats want a more aggressive preschool push,
although program advocates say they are fine with the measured approach.
“This is not going
to happen overnight,” said Andrew Cullen, a United Way of Central Indiana
consultant who’s helping lead a lobbying effort for expansion. “Some parts
of the state are ready for an expansion and others still have some work to
do but they need the funding to be ready for an expansion.”
scheduled to provide updated tax revenue projections Dec. 15, which will
used to guide early work on the new state budget. Bosma said he expects a
tighter state budget, which could mean a smaller boost in state funding than
the 2.3 percent increase included in the current two-year spending plan.
lobbyist Dennis Costerison said that’s likely to mean less money for school
districts with shrinking student enrollments, which are mostly in urban and
“It’s way too early
to say there’s going to be massive cuts or anything like that - we’re not to
that point,” said Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association
of School Business Officials. “Even for those who may be getting some more
money, it might not be as much as they received the last two years.”