By DARCY COSTELLO, Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A House bill that would increase state funding to send
poor kids to preschool was gutted in an Indiana Senate committee, setting up
a potential clash between the two chambers.
changes approved Wednesday by the Senate education committee bring the
measure in line with what the Senate passed earlier this session and sharply
curtails a $10 million funding increase sought for the state's preschool
pilot program by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
amended bill increases new money for the program by just $3 million and sets
aside an additional $1 million for a new online preschool pilot program that
offers students 15-minute daily lessons.
While many lawmakers agree on the importance of expanding Indiana's current
five-county pilot, which advocates say does not meet the state's demand,
there is debate on the specific amounts to dedicate.
Senate education committee voted 8-1 to send the amended bill to the Senate
Appropriations committee. The House has yet to consider the Senate's bill or
Republican Rep. Robert Behning's original proposal would have expanded the
reach of the pilot program from five counties to 10 and created a new way
for students to become eligible for a private school voucher from the state.
amended version, which matches what advanced out of Republican Sen. Luke
Kenley's appropriations committee, sends $16 million to prekindergarten.
that figure includes $12 million the state already spends on pre-K
programming and the $1 million Republican senators want to set aside for the
online program — meaning it increases new money for the pilot by $3 million.
Behning's bill also originally called for allowing students who receive a
pre-K scholarship from the state and meet certain income requirements to be
eligible for school vouchers beginning in kindergarten.
Indianapolis lawmaker argued that it would create a smooth transition for
students whose parents want to keep them in the same school after preschool.
Public school advocates and teachers groups sharply criticized its inclusion
in the preschool proposal in more than two hours of testimony last week. It
was stripped by the Senate committee's changes.