January 9, 2014

 

ISTA supports early childhood education.  However, there are some fundamental details surrounding HB 1004, which aims to expand Indiana’s voucher program to allow “low income” students to attend a preschool program, that requires deeper discussion, public input, and consensus. ISTA will testify on this bill as it is introduced.

 

HB 1004 leaves many unknowns as it pertains to executing a preschool education program. However, one thing is clear in the bill and that is it will become a “feeder system” for the K-12 private school voucher schools.

 

This is done by amending the K-12 law to say that if a child or a sibling receives a preschool voucher of at least $500 (the minimum amount), that child automatically becomes an eligible K-12 voucher student for the remainder of their K-12 schooling.

 

If Indiana is interested in joining with the other 41 states that fund preschool education, it would be better positioned to ensure high standards for the program first by using our existing infrastructure of public schools as preferred providers since they are already located in every community and already employ highly qualified teachers.

 

Some of the things we know HB 1004 doesn’t do for early childhood education:

  • doesn’t speak to minimal program standards by providers
  • doesn’t ensure that the participating preschool programs will represent a broad demographic—virtually all of the details are left to the Division of Family and Children and/or the State Board of Education (and not the Department of Education)
  • no guarantee that these preschoolers will attend for 180 days of instruction

We believe that there are many other education issues and initiatives that should receive legislative attention with promises of future funding.