Enrollment is open for the state-funded preschool program aimed at low-income families. For the first time seats are available in all 92 counties as part of On My Way Pre-K.
The program provides vouchers for eligible families to help pay tuition at high-rated preschools.
Nicole Norvell of the Family And Social Services Administration says the program is an important step before a child begins kindergarten.
“What we know about children entering in Kindergarten is that those who have had Pre-K, especially in a high-quality environment, are more prepared,” says Norvell, director of Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. “So they are more used to sitting and learning, used to following directions.”
The program began in 2015 and was limited in scope. Last year preschool providers in just 20 counties with a level three rating or higher on the state’s Paths To Quality system were able to qualify.
Legislation approved earlier this year expanded the program statewide. More than 27,000 4-year-olds are expected to be eligible for it now.
Eligible families must have an income below 127% of the federal poverty level; the child must be 4 years old by Aug. 1, 2019. Around 8,000 families received free preschool from the program since it began.
The application is available on the FSSA website.
An economic impact report released last fall says Indiana loses more than $1 billion annually because of families’ inadequate access to early child education programs. Businesses and some communities around the state have started to rally behind high-quality childcare and preschool centers to support workforce needs.
David Wolfe Bender contributed to this report.