TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Up to $10 million a year in state funds will allow low income Hoosier children to attend preschool, that’s according to a bill Governor Mike Pence signed into law.
The Family Social Services Administration has yet to decide which five counties will receive the pilot program.
One local school corporation says they would be the perfect candidate. Pre-K students at Terre Town elementary in Terre Haute start their day by learning the sounds each letter makes.
“What letter is it,” asked Miss. Shepherd, the Pre-K teacher.
“U,” answered the student.
It may sound simple but educators say the lessons taught in preschool are part of the head start children need before entering Kindergarten.
“They learn those skills of number sense, color sense, they start letter recognition. They have those opportunities so when they come into Kindergarten they are ready to learn,” said Christi Fenton, Director of Elementary Education, with the Vigo Co. School Corporation.
Six schools across Vigo County now offer a Pre-K program but Fenton still recognizes a gap. Just over 300 four year-old’s attend Pre-K in the county, while more than 1,300 are enrolled in Kindergarten.
“Looking at that range of abilities some kids come in the door behind the other students,” Fenton said.
Fenton’s words are those that no parent or educator wants to hear but due to lack of funding many could continue to fall through the cracks.
“We don’t have a lot of opportunities for our families, and the other thing is we are a high poverty area. We are a large corporation with high poverty, so a lot of families don’t have the funds or the means.”
The high poverty level is one of the main reasons Fenton believes Vigo County would benefit from the Pre-K voucher program.
The early learning opportunity will allow 1,500 children across five counties to attend preschool at no cost.
“This would be an opportunity for families that don’t have the funds to be able to come in to a preschool and get their children ready to learn and move forward,” said Fenton.
Once the counties are chosen, the pilot program could start as early as this fall. The vouchers can be used at the public or private preschool of the parents choosing.
Indiana now joins 41 other states that provide funding for early education.