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BCSC vies for spot in Indiana’s pilot voucher program

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Indiana was one of just 10 states with no state funding dedicated to prekindergarten until this year.

Columbus native Gov. Mike Pence made finding money for prekindergarten his top education priority during the most recent session, and it worked — sort of.

A small-scale pilot program was approved by state legislators, which will provide low-income 4-year-olds in five still-to-be-determined counties with scholarships worth anywhere between $2,500 and $6,800 per student.

The pilot program will provide about 1,500 half- or full-day vouchers statewide for children to attend a qualified program. Eligible families can make up to about 127 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $30,000 a year for a family of four.

Programs need to be at least a Level 3 on the state’s 4-level Paths to Quality rating scale, which takes a systematic approach to help child care providers take the necessary steps to achieve higher levels of quality in their programs.

There are private and parochial preschools that qualify in Columbus, as well as public options such as Busy Bees Academy.

The state Family and Social Services Administration will provide $10 million from Child Care and Development grant funds. An additional 10 to 50 percent of tuition must be matched by private donations obtained by prekindergarten providers or other grants.

It’s too soon to know if Bartholomew County will be selected as one of the pilot programs, and the state has not released any more information about the timeline or logistics.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Superintendent John Quick said the district has expressed interest in being considered.

He said he thinks the state program is a step in the right direction from the state.

Local educators are not sitting by idly to wait for the five counties to be named.

Instead, BCSC is asking taxpayers to chip in with a referendum requesting a $0.05 per $100 assessed valuation property tax increase.

If both funding mechanisms became a local reality, it would mean local students could opt for a state voucher to attend a private pre-K school.

“We’re going to need to find multiple funding streams and sustainable funding streams,” Quick said. “We’ll apply for every kind of grant we can get.”

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