March 30, 2017

Senate Endorses Amended Version Of House Pre-K Bill

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Indiana lawmakers eyed bills around prayer in school, union involvement, student journalists and collective bargaining this week. - Peter Balonon-Rosen/IPB

Indiana lawmakers eyed bills around prayer in school, union involvement, student journalists and collective bargaining this week.

Peter Balonon-Rosen/IPB

The Indiana Senate approved legislation for state-funded preschool that offers far less financial support than what House lawmakers and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had sought.

Throughout the session, Republican Senate lawmakers have been adamant: We don’t want to double the funding for the state’s preschool pilot program.

So they amended the House version of the bill to look like their own — by cutting a $20 million increase for the On My Way Pre-K program down to $6 million for the 2017-19 budget. Plus, they added $4 million for preschool provider grants and $2 million in new money for online-based pre-K school vouchers than can be used by homeschool parents.

House Bill 1004 passed 38-11.

Some advocates for the program, including Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage), opposed the bill saying it doesn’t do enough.

“I am going to vote no as a protest, not because I disagree,” Tallian says. “But because I think we should fund this significantly higher.”

A collation of companies and nonprofits had pushed for $50 million per year increase in funding to create a universal, state-funded preschool program.

Holcomb requested a $10 million per year increase for On My Way Pre-K.

The pilot currently operates in five counties at a cost of around $10 million per year.

An upcoming fight over preschool funding is still likely. House lawmakers have yet to take up debate on the Senate’s version of the preschool bill. And the budget bills from both chambers are at odds on how to pay for pre-K.

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