INDIANAPOLIS – As a new school year begins across Indiana, let us spend a moment to remember something our governor said about education back in April.
As the 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly was coming to a close, the governor recommended that the new state budget “be augmented by the addition of $150 million for K-12 education, with about a quarter of that money being used to complete the extension of full-day kindergarten to every school district in the state.”
A casual observer might have gathered two things from that announcement. Public schools were getting more state support and full-day kindergarten was going to be provided free of charge to everyone across Indiana.
You would be wrong.
As I have mentioned before, K-12 is getting additional funding only if you ignore the fact that this governor cut state support for public schools by $300 million in each of the past two years, or $600 million in all.
But it’s the other claim made by the governor last April that I want to discuss today.
Contrary to what he would have you believe, full-day kindergarten is not free in Indiana and it’s not open to all students in many school districts.
In fact, what the state has done is pay only its share of the total cost of full-day K.
How much does the state’s share cover? In some cases, only as little as 10 percent of the total cost.
That means it’s up to parents – and other taxpayers – to pay the rest of the bill to get their children into full-day K.
And that may not even be enough to get your child into full-day K. Some schools are able to provide openings only to those children who win spots through a lottery.
Is this the way we should be educating our children?
Your child can have full-day kindergarten, but only if you’re lucky and you can afford to pay for it?
What’s missing here is the chance to discuss what should be our true goal in Indiana: universal full-day K for all Hoosier children.
Here is another example where we lag behind other states. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Indiana is one of only 10 states that provide no support for pre-school programs.
Why does this matter? It should be obvious, but here are a few statistics to support the case.
Children who attend pre-school and other early education programs are nearly 25 percent more likely to attend a four-year college.
These same children are nearly 30 percent less likely to have drug or alcohol problems or end up in jail.
Universal full-day kindergarten and pre-school are exactly the kinds of programs we need to be implementing in Indiana because they deliver on our promise to give our children their first chance at a quality education to improve their lives.
But they are the programs that get ignored because the leaders of this state have a greater commitment to cutting state support for our schools in order to preserve a large surplus in our treasury.
While these same leaders claim they have fully funded full-day K, they have made sure that local schools cannot afford to make the claim a reality.
And the people who suffer the most are our children.
Throughout the interim, here are the best ways to reach me:
Call the toll-free Statehouse telephone number of 1-800-382-9842;
Write to me in care of the Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204; or
E-mail me at H17@in.gov.