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Pence Pushes Preschool Funding In Senate

Posted On February 13, 2014

By Mike Perleberg

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – It doesn’t happen often, but Indiana’s governor believes that funding pre-kindergarten vouchers is such an important issue that he testified before a Senate committee.

House Bill 1004 would create a pilot program in five counties to provide tuition assistance to children from families in or near poverty. The price tag of the Early Education Matching Grant Program has been estimated between $7.5 and $30 million per year by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.

A sitting governor testifying in person at a committee hearing is rare, but the preschool voucher program has been listed by Pence as one of his top legislative priorities in 2014. The bill has already passed the Indiana House on an 87-9 vote, but it faces a tougher road to passage in the Senate, where lawmakers are more hesitant to open the purse strings in a non-budget making legislative session.

On Wednesday, Pence told the Indiana Senate Education and Career Development Committee that pre-K programs can help disadvantaged children in school and build a foundation for later in life.

“We owe it to all of our children, especially the least of these, to see to it that they are able to start school ready to succeed,” Pence said.

Pence admitted that he used to be skeptical of pre-K programs, but has seen the benefits first-hand during his travels as governor.

“We’ve got a chance to make progress and to do it right. To make it voluntary. To allow families to use scholarships that are right for them. To ensure our programs are high-quality,” Pence told the panel of lawmakers.

The committee could vote on the bill next week.