House Bill 1004 calls for doubling the state’s On My Way Pre-K program to 10 participating counties for low-income families. It provides free preschool at state-approved private homes, schools or other daycare options
Republicans and Democrats agree the program should be expanded in some way. How much funding would be allocated has yet to be worked out by the House budget makers.
But Hartford City Republican Rep. Kevin Mahan and other lawmakers said a provision in the bill that would include those same families in the state’s private school voucher program should become separate legislation.
The bill would make a new, eighth method for families to qualify for the Choice Scholarship program. All Democrats in the House Education Committee voted against the bill last week over the inclusion.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Mahan said he voted for the law that created Indiana’s private school voucher system but understands that some in his community and across the state don’t support it.
“Pre-K is a big issue. Vouchers is a big issue,” he said, adding that he would support the bill’s passage out of the house. “This is an issue that should have been stranded alone for what they represent.”
Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, also voted yes but said she would vote against the bill if it it returns from the Senate without the voucher link removed.
Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, asked his colleagues to vote down the bill and instead support Senate Bill 276 to expand preschool because it does not include voucher ties.
The House bill passed 61-34. The proposal now heads to the Senate.