After much fanfare about the launch of Indiana’s first public preschool program this fall, numbers have emerged showing that the number of funded spots is far outstripped by demand.
Of the 5,000 applicants in Marion County, home of state capital Indianapolis, only 30 percent were offered preschool scholarships, according to The Indianapolis Star. And the acceptance number in Marion County includes the extra children who are covered by an additional $4.2 million in annual funding provided by the city of Indianapolis.
“In Lake County, only 40 percent of those who applied to the state program were accepted. Vanderburgh County had the highest rate of acceptance, but still denied about 35 percent of applicants, state figures show,” according to an AP story on Indiana’s acceptance numbers.
Predictions that the program would be too small to serve the number of qualified children have not resulted in additional funding for the program in 2016.
And Republican Gov. Mike Pence decided not to apply for $80 million in federal funding last year to cover additional children, citing concerns that the money would come with too many conditions and requirements. Pence “will wait for results of the state’s pre-K pilot program before making any decisions” about growing the state’s program, said Stephanie Hodgin, a spokeswoman for the governor, in a statement.
Indiana’s $10 million program has come under some fire for refusing to accept 4-year-olds who are not legal U.S. residents.
“It’s shortsighted and wrong to deny children educational opportunity from the starting line because of their immigration status—especially children who are clearly here through no fault of their own,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a September statement.
While state Democrats told the Star that there was enough evidence that preschool worked to justify an immediate expansion, state Republicans urged caution until the results of the program are clear.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.