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General Assembly

Indiana pre-K approval expected today

INDIANAPOLIS – Leaders laid out the full details of a compromise on a five-county pre-kindergarten pilot program Thursday morning.

The House and Senate were expected to both approve the deal later today – the last day of the 2014 session.

Under the agreement, the Family and Social Services Administration would create and run the program using up to $10 million in reversions from that agency's existing budget.

Private donations also would be required.

Children in homes up to 127 percent of the federal poverty level – or an income of about $30,000 for a family of four – would be eligible for pre-kindergarten grants of between $2,500 and $6,800 per student.

Public schools and private providers would be eligible so long as they meet certain requirements.

The number of children to be served depends on the funding raised but it is expected to be at least 1,000.

There also will be attendance and parental engagement requirements, as well as a longitudinal study on the effectiveness of the program.

"This is not just a day-care program," said Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis. "It's an early learning program."

Indiana is one of only a handful of states not to invest state dollars in a preschool program. Gov. Mike Pence originally pushed a much more ambitious program but still gets a win after the Senate initially signaled it wanted to only study the idea.

Pence education advisor Claire Fiddian-Green said the law would go into effect July 1 and the most likely timeline for the pilot to be up and running would be the fall of 2015.

One key compromise on the bill was removing any connection to the state's K-12 voucher program. Earlier in the session, House Republicans wanted to link the two programs – creating a new pipeline for children to attend private schools on state-paid vouchers.

nkelly@jg.net

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