Indiana Daily Student

Pence testifies for pre-K bill supporting voucher program

Gov. Mike Pence testified today before the Indiana Senate Education and Career and Development Committee in support of House Bill 1004.

Authored by Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the bill would help families in five Indiana counties afford early childhood education.

Pence began his speech by mentioning one in five Indiana children lives in poverty. He said in order to eradicate poverty, children must be prepared to begin learn when they begin kindergarten, which is not always the case.

“They arrive in kindergarten and spend too much time trying to catch up, and when that fails they spend too much of their lives dropping out — out of school, out of work and out of our communities,” Pence said.

He said part of the problem starts at home, where children aren’t learning the skills they need to be successful.

“I’ve seen firsthand pre-K programs that work with disadvantaged kids to get them the help they need before they start school,” Pence said. “We are indeed fortunate to have a broad range of public, faith-based and other private programs, all of which should be a part of our efforts to help give these children a better shot at success.”

Many others testified in front of the committee to express their support of HB 1004.
Charlie Geier, director of early learning and intervention with the Indiana Department of Education, said the push for early learning is both professional and personal for him.

He has young children of his own and is also married to a kindergarten teacher.
Geier said the current Indiana General Assembly is the one he has waited for to push forward for early childhood education. Early learning is currently divided into two stages, birth to age 5 and kindergarten to third grade.

But he said from kindergarten to third grade, children are still developing socially and emotionally. He said these two worlds need to be bridged  — there needs to be a birth to 3rd grade continuum.

Dianna Wallace, executive director of the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children, said she celebrates the Indiana General Assembly’s Early Learning Advisory Committee. She said Indiana has to continue to make young children a priority.

Wallace said the outcome of these early childhood education programs will not be seen until families are also engaged in their childrens’ education.

Pence ended his statement urging Hoosiers to keep those children who are the least fortunate in mind.

“As we consider this legislation, I urge you to do so first and foremost with Indiana’s disadvantaged children in mind,” Pence said. “For those of us blessed to call Indiana home, we owe it to all of our children, especially the least of these, to see to it that they start school ready to succeed.”

— Sydney Murray

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