By Abrahm Hurt
INDIANAPOLIS — With 15 preschoolers surrounding him, Gov. Eric Holcomb praised leaders for progress on both sides of the aisle during the last legislative session before ceremonially signing a bill that expands access to pre-K.
“This most recent session that we came out of has been heralded as one of the most substantive and collaborative sessions in recent memory and we’ve had a lot of good ones,” he said during the signing Monday. “So, for this one to really stand out — I have been so proud and honored to stand right next to you and watch your leadership in action.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks about the futures of the children present for the ceremonial signing of HEA 1004 on Early Childhood Education. Photo by Eddie Drews, TheStatehouseFile.com
The state’s pilot program, On My Way Pre-K, which sends 4-year-olds from low-income families to pre-K, will receive additional funding and grow from five counties to a total of 20.
The pre-K expansion will also receive $22 million in funding each year. This is $12 million more than the pilot program currently receives. Nearly all the money will go into On My Way Pre-K classrooms. UPSTART, an online pre-K classroom where students learn for 15 minutes five days a week, will receive $1 million.
Lt. Gov Suzanne Crouch said it was a great day for young Hoosiers and the future of Indiana. She also said it was a big day for her personally because in 2013, she was the co-author for the legislation that established the pilot program.
“I was so pleased with the legislation this session. Expanding 15 counties with an emphasis on rural counties, and it is so important to the future of Indiana,” she said.
Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, author of House Enacted Bill 1004 said the bill was a big step in doubling their investment into pre-K.
“It’s still not as far as we would like to go, but we’re taking life kind of like we did all-day kindergarten,” Behning said. “The state took a few steps at a time making sure we get it right and create a high-quality program.”
On My Way Pre-K launched in 2015 under former Gov. Mike Pence.
To qualify for the program, a student’s family income must not exceed 127 percent of the federal poverty limit. For example, a family of four could make no more than $30,861 a year in order to apply. The goal is to serve children with the most need.
Holcomb said expansion will help kids get off to the right start.
“It’s a long journey. You’re going to enjoy it, but it starts now,” he said. “We have the resources — Indiana does — to make sure you’re on the right path.”
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.