The same day researchers at Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy released a report recommending that Indiana give better support to its pilot pre-kindergarten program, the Indiana Senate slashed a proposed funding increase that would have doubled the amount allotted for preschool programs.
The report, “A Comparison of State-Funded Pre-K Programs: Lessons for Indiana,” lays out a finding that lead author Colleen Chesnut said “seems like a no-brainer”: States that provide the most funding for pre-K have the highest numbers of students in the programs.
Chesnut’s study looks at 10 states that launched pre-K pilot programs and grew them into statewide programs, among them Indiana neighbors Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Georgia led the way as the state program with the greatest access.
Georgia launched its pre-K pilot in 1992, allotting just $3 million in state funding to 750 at-risk 4-year-olds at 20 preschool providers. Three years later, in 1995, the state expanded the program to allow universal access. In 2014-15, Georgia spent $312 million on its universal pre-K program, funding free preschool in every one of its school districts for 80,430 enrolled 4-year-olds.
Those figures tower over the latest from Indiana, which show 1,585 children enrolled in five counties, with $10 million plus $2 million in matching grants provided for the On My Way Pre-K pilot program in the 2015-16 school year.
As the report details, preschool education comes with a host of benefits, giving kids a firm foundation to build on in kindergarten all the way through high school and making them more likely to have higher salaries, fewer arrests and “a multitude of educational, economic and health benefits.”