The basics of early childhood education in Indiana
In 2011, Indiana’s then-Gov. Mitch Daniels made education a major focus of his legislative agenda, unveiling four major bills that tackled many education hot buttons — teachers, unions, charter schools, and vouchers. But, as advocates quickly pointed out, Daniels had overlooked another favored policy: early childhood education.
Proponents of early childhood education argue there is strong evidence that improved early learning can have long term benefits for children, making it more likely they will succeed in school and in life.
But Daniels and his aides continued not to give attention to early childhood even amid complaints, arguing at the time that the state simply didn’t have the money to offer state aid to reduce the cost of education options for young children.
Since then, Indiana has begun to take small steps toward improving preschool. A small pilot program to pay for preschool for poor children in five counties began in 2015, meaning the Hoosier state was no loger one of nine that spent no state dollars for direct aid to help children attend preschool. While two-thirds of states require children to attend kindergarten, Indiana still has not budged to make school attendance mandatory before age 7, or first grade.
As a result, far fewer children in the state attend preschool than in other states. Indiana in 2011 had about 34,000 kids attending public preschools through federal programs. That’s only about 20 percent of preschool-aged children. By comparison, that percentage in states that have prioritized preschool, like Oklahoma and West Virginia, was more than 70 percent.
But there are signs of a new attitude toward early childhood education.