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general assembly

Pre-K study better than nothing, say lawmakers

– Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma seemed resigned Thursday to the fact that a state-funded preschool pilot program won’t happen this year.

His comments came a day after a Senate panel gutted House Bill 1004, choosing instead to further study the issue of early learning this summer.

“I’m not sure that one’s going to be accomplished,” Bosma said during a meeting with reporters.

He was much more upbeat about negotiations on a personal property tax cut for businesses and more highway road funding.

“We haven’t thrown the towel in on that, but it’s difficult to have three issues and walk away with three wins,” Bosma said. “Even agreement for a major study of pre-kindergarten is actually a victory, because it’s been difficult to get people at the table to hear and receive information and opinions in this regard.

“It will probably require a study committee to overcome some of the objections.”

Bosma and the House Republicans have pushed for a pilot preschool program for two years, and this year, Gov. Mike Pence also got on board, making it a key legislative priority.

Indiana is one of only 10 states that don’t directly fund pre-kindergarten education. Supporters said statistics show kids in poverty show up to school already behind. Senate Republicans have been hesitant about preschool because of studies showing varying levels of long-term effectiveness.

Democrats, on the other hand, have been supportive of the push for pre-kindergarten and some are disappointed that it won’t happen this year.

“I think we’re delaying and missing an opportunity,” said Rep. Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes. “We’re going to wait and take the risk that there will be future higher priorities. I guess a study is better than nothing. Right now we are just kicking the can down the road.”