Education Funding

Preschool a Missed Step for Many Ind. Children

By The Associated Press — July 19, 2010 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Indiana’s lack of state-funded preschool and its later school starting age for children could be sending a bad message to parents and putting more children at risk of academic failure, experts say.

Only 20 percent of preschool-age children in Indiana attend public pre-kindergarten programs, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Oklahoma has 87 percent attendance and West Virginia has 73 percent, the institute says.

Experts say Indiana’s low rate and its failure to require children to attend school before age 7 prevent students from building a solid educational foundation.

“If you want third-graders reading at the appropriate skill level, you obviously need to get started long before they’re in third grade,” said Peggy Hinckley, superintendent of Warren Township Schools.

Each Indiana school district offers preschool to some children, but those slots go mainly to those who are eligible for special education and for whom preschool is mandated by federal law. Only seven other states don’t pay for public pre-kindergarten programs.

Advocates say thousands of Indiana’s most at-risk children are being shut out of preschool because their parents can’t afford to pay for them to attend.

“Unfortunately, Indiana does not have a state-funded pre-K program or state investments in Head Start,” said Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now, a national preschool advocacy group that rates Indiana as one of the eight worst states for access to preschool, quality of programs and support for early childhood education. “It’s one of the few states where leadership has not made the smart investments other states have thought were important.”

State officials say they don’t have the money for a statewide early childhood program. But school leaders note that the state didn’t fund pre-kindergarten when it had a large surplus, either.

“When you don’t have money is the best time to plan for when you do have money and set the priorities,” said John Ellis, director of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents.

Statewide, 20,000 students are enrolled in district pre-kindergarten programs, and another 14,000 are served by Indiana’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

Ena Shelley, dean of Butler University’s College of Education, said states need to be proactive about getting children started on the right path at an early age — even if it’s a tough sell.

“If you’re building a house, you have to make sure you spend the time in pouring and laying the good foundation before you build the rest of the structure,” she said. “If you don’t, you do constant patch and repair, and you’ve got cracks, and then you wonder why things are not built more solidly.

“If we would only be proactive, we wouldn’t be having these conversations about what do we do about these children at third grade who aren’t (achieving) at grade level,” she said. “We wouldn’t be wringing our hands about the dropout rate and the achievement gap.”

Ronald Smith, director of the Warren Early Childhood Center in Indianapolis, said learning to read and write happens naturally when children are exposed to learning experiences such as trips to the zoo and when someone reads to them on a regular basis and challenges them to ask questions.

But those who don’t get that stimulation can start kindergarten two years behind.

“It’s a huge obstacle to overcome,” Smith said.

Don Weilhammer, 45, said his 7-year-old daughter, Anneliese, benefited from attending the Warren center for two years.

“It’s so much more than the ABCs and 1-2-3,” Weilhammer said. “Her testing has shown her to be advanced for her grade, and I give part of the credit to this place.”

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Events

School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding The COVID School-Relief Funds You Might Not Know About, Explained
Governors got $7 billion to spend on COVID relief efforts for K-12 and higher education with broad discretion on how to use it.
6 min read
Illustration of a helping hand with dollar bill bridging economy gap during coronavirus pandemic, assisting business people to overcome financial difficulties.
Feodora Chiosea/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding Puerto Rico Schools to Use New Aid for Teacher Raises, Hurricane and COVID Recovery
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced $215 million in federal funds before the start of the new school year.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina during a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 28, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina during a trip to San Juan on July 28.
Carlos Rivera Giusti/GDA via AP Images
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Education Funding Quiz
Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About ESSER funding for Career and Technical Education Programs?
Answer 7 questions to assess your knowledge on ESSER funding for CTE programs.
Content provided by iCEV
Education Funding 3 Things in the Senate Climate-Change Bill That Could Affect K-12 Schools
The sweeping proposal includes funding opportunities for schools to operate electric buses and improve air quality in buildings.
3 min read
Image: San Carlos, CA, USA - 2019 : Yellow low emissions NGV school bus refuel cleanest burning alternative fuel at compressed natural gas CNG fueling station owned by PG&E
Michael V/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus