State Senate Democrats in Indiana will soon offer legislation that would create a universal preschool program for the state’s three and four year olds, as well as lower the mandatory school age to five from seven.
The cost is hard to estimate, but Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D) said it could be as much as full-day Kindergarten, which is about $197 million a year. He also told the Indystar that he would consider just funding the program for low-income children.
A bill would have to get support from state Republicans, as they hold supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and Gov. Mike Pence is also a Republican. Earlier this year, the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill that allocated $14 million for a pilot program but it failed in the Senate.
Other states have also pushed to expand preschool to more students. South Carolina has advanced legislation to create more access for low-income students, while Michigan’s governor has gotten more funds to do just that. Maine introduced a bipartisan bill in May to create a universal preschool program. Six other states — Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, New York, and West Virginia — are also working on such plans.
And states aren’t alone. President Obama has proposed making preschool available for all of the country’s children. The benefits of doing so are clear. Children who attend quality preschool programs stand to see $11 of economic benefits over their lifetimes for every dollar spent. They are more likely to stay in school, go to college, and avoid teen pregnancy and are less likely to commit violent crimes. The economy can see $7 in savings for every dollar spent and universal preschool can increase human capital and gross domestic product.
Yet the United States is not reaping those rewards. States overall are spending the lowest amount per Pre-K student in a decade. The country falls far behind developed peers when it comes to enrollment and spending on early childhood education.