September 22, 2013

OUR VIEW: Let's leave the politics out of it


---- — A “positive discussion.”

That’s what the head of the state Senate Democratic caucus is asking for in regard to a proposal he backs to drop the mandatory school age in Indiana from age 7 to age 5 and to provide millions of dollars to provide pre-kindergarten education in every school district in the state.

The debate on education reform in Indiana has drifted into a political wasteland. Scandals have side-tracked the real issue at hand: how to best educate the leaders of tomorrow.

So, we’ll take this space to focus on Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane’s proposal.

It will cost us more now. Such a program would carry a price tag of an estimated $200 million annually.

No one denies that’s a lot of money, not even Lanane. But, he argues, it will pay off big later.


By providing high-quality pre-K programs and getting children into them sooner, Lanane says, students will more likely need less remediation. They’ll more likely graduate from high school and own a house (read pay more income, sales and property taxes). They’ll also be less likely to commit a crime (read less tax money to house more inmates).

And from what we’re reading, we think he’s onto something.

An initiative of the Urban Child Institute seems to prove him right. Using information from a variety of studies since 2000, the Institute says research clearly points to the value of high-quality pre-kindergarten education.

Here’s why:

• Those with a pre-K education are about half as likely, compared to those without pre-K, to be arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony by the age of 27.

• Of those with a pre-K education, about 76 percent are employed at the age of 40; compared to 62 percent of those without pre-K.

• Of those with a pre-K education, about 41 percent will never accept welfare, compared to about 20 percent of those without pre-K.

• Of those with a pre-K education, about 15 percent will need special education, compared to about 34 percent of those without pre-K.

So, is lowering the starting age for students the answer to all our education woes? We don’t know. We think there’s great merit in the idea, and we know it’s a question worth exploring.

We don’t claim to know to have all the right answers when it comes to educating our children or how to pay the bills for it. But, for goodness sake, let’s all come to the table and talk about it like grown-ups. We want to see legislators lay the political battles aside and have the “good, old-fashioned legislative debate” Lanane is calling for.

Some things are more important than which side of the aisle you sit on. Educating our state’s children is one of them.