INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
An Indiana Senate panel decided Wednesday that a pilot preschool measure
needs to be studied further by lawmakers, amid continuing budget concerns.
Education Committee voted unanimously to change the measure from a limited
pilot program to an issue that will be studied over the summer.
drafted the measure that would have provided vouchers for preschool-aged
children to attend school in a limited number of counties. Families earning
less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level would qualify for up to
$6,800 to attend public, private or parochial preschools.
But slumping tax
collections and the fact that the state’s budget will not be taken up again
until next year raised concern among many senators about spending money on a
new program. Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who is seeking the preschool
spending, recently sold the state plane and asked state agencies to cut
their budgets to make up for a roughly $300 million downturn in anticipated
Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who also serves on the
education committee, said he wanted to learn more about how the state could
marshal federal dollars. He also said he wanted to see a similar preschool
program enacted last year play out before deciding on another program.
"Before we enact a
new program, I believe it’s necessary to review our current resources and
reach a decision that’s realistic for our state,” Kenley said Wednesday.
analysts determined the House plan could cost between $7.5 million and $30
million. Pence’s education advisers estimated the price tag would be $10
million. But Kenley pointed out the program would cost the state upward of
$270 million annually if expanded to all of the state’s children from
families earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level.
Mike Pence originally sought a more sweeping plan to pay for low-income
children to attend preschool, but later threw his support behind the House
plan. Pence testified in favor of the House plan last week before senators,
as the measure appeared to be in trouble.
It was the first
time Pence testified on a measure since taking office last January.
Kara Brooks said the governor wants to see some sort of preschool spending
approved this year and would continue negotiating with lawmakers.
believes every child deserves to start school ready to learn, and he
believes now is the time for a voluntary pre-K program to help Indiana’s
low-income kids,” Brooks said.