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Indiana Pre-K Gets Major Boost


By Jason Quiara, Joyce Foundation Program Officer, Education

In the coming months, thousands of low-income children will get a strong start in life thanks to a bold move by Indiana legislators. Kids, teachers, business leaders and other early childhood champions gathered at the Indiana Statehouse on June 26th to celebrate the expansion of the state’s On My Way Preschool Program through the ceremonial signing by Governor Eric Holcomb of HEA 1004 into law. The bill was approved earlier this year during Indiana’s legislative session, in response to a year-long advocacy campaign, known as All IN 4 Pre-K, led by early childhood advocates, business leaders, parents, and government officials.

The campaign aimed to increase state funding so that more Indiana children can attend quality preschool programs. The hard work paid off in April when the Indiana General Assembly appropriated $22 million to expand the On My Way preschool pilot program to 15 additional counties. Many are in rural parts of the state where families lack quality early childhood options for their children. The Joyce Foundation was proud to support local advocacy efforts and public awareness activities led by the United Way of Central Indiana and Early Learning Indiana.

Indiana has an opportunity to leverage its new investment and join leading states in building an early childhood system that emphasizes quality standards for early learning. Preschool advocates and state leaders can learn from what other states are doing, avoiding pitfalls so they can build a statewide system tailored to what works best for Hoosiers.

For example, All IN 4 Pre-K has identified several key elements that should be part of a high-quality preschool system. They include a pipeline of highly trained early childhood educators, working conditions that will help early care and education providers recruit and retain a high-caliber early childhood workforce, and coordination across early childhood and K-12 education systems to ensure that early learning gains are sustained over time.

These efforts will ensure that more vulnerable children get off to a great start in life and enter kindergarten with the academic and developmental skills needed to succeed in school and life. Investments in high-quality early childhood programs will improve the quality of life for vulnerable children and families and pay dividends down the road for Indiana.