Pharos-Tribune

State News

September 13, 2013

Senate Democrats: Time to fund pre-K

Dropping mandatory school age to 5 years old included in proposal.

(Continued)

“We find these ideas take a while,” he said. “We think the short session would be an ideal time to have a good hard discussion about it. And we believe to even make a commitment, but if nothing else to get the discussion going.”

Indiana is one of 11 states that doesn’t provide public money for pre-school.

In this past legislative session, House Republicans supported a two-year, $7 million pilot project that would have provided pre-kindergarten education for 1,000 children from low-income families. The funding was reduced to $4 million in the final budget.

Part of the initiative that Lanane supports includes lowering Indiana’s mandatory school age to 5 years old. That may drive more children into kindergarten, which currently isn’t mandatory in Indiana.

In late August, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure that lowers Illinois’ mandatory school attendance age to 6 from 7 starting in the fall of 2014. The law was prompted in part by a Chicago Tribune investigation last fall that nearly 18 percent of the city’s kindergartners and first-graders were classified as “chronic truants.” The missed school days were most common among black youths and children with disabilities.

Illinois school officials supported the measure but warned it would be difficult to enforce.

Indiana is one of 14 states where the minimum school age is set at 7. Two states require school attendance at age 8. The mandatory school age is 6 in 26 states, and age 5 in eight states and the District of Columbia.

In Indiana, past proposals to dropping the mandatory school age have been defeated by opponents who said the measure would infringe on parental rights and swell the costs of education.

Lanane said the investment the state would make in paying for pre-kindergarten education and spending more dollars on kindergarten as more students enroll would pay off down the road. He cited a March 2012 report issued by the Indiana Education Roundtable, a policy advisory board, that found children enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs were more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to go onto college, less likely to be arrested as adults, and more likely to be employed as adults.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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