Indianapolis, IN — State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) said Governor Pence owes Muncie and the rest of the state a more complete explanation about why he did not submit the state’s application for an $80 million federal grant for early childhood education.
“I was shocked and dismayed to learn of the governor’s 11th hour decision, which was not publicly announced, but surfaced in an internal email to the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee,” said Errington. “Just last week, I and other members of the Interim Study Committee on Education heard extensive testimony and recommendations from that same advisory committee.
“This decision to forgo application for the federal grant money means that an additional 2,000 low-income Hoosier children could have had an early start on education,” continued Errington.
“That extra year could be life-changing for each of those girls and boys. In addition, the rejection of that potential funding means a loss of millions of dollars that would have been used for improving the state’s pre-K infrastructure as well as funding initiatives like assessment systems, local coordinators and family engagement programs.”
“In an editorial statement issued Oct. 17, the governor said many of the other pre-K programs around the country have not been successful,” noted Errington. “That is not what I understand. He said we need to study the program to see what works and doesn’t work. That is true. We have been studying the issue for quite a long time. There comes a point when you have to move forward or else the state falls backward. We are at that point.”
During the past legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly showed strong bipartisan support for authorization to establish a five-county, preschool pilot project in the state. Yet, Errington said a news conference earlier in the week by House Speaker Brian Bosma revealed a significant omission.
“It was odd that Speaker Bosma made no mention of early childhood education when he talked about the House Republican agenda for the upcoming session,” said Errington. “He spoke about the need to fix the school funding formula, which his caucus broke when they created the current, inequitable one. Yet, there was no mention of this major education initiative from the 2014 legislative session. It just seems so odd that the governor’s rejection of an $80 million federal grant was done secretively, without input from members of the education committees in the House and Senate. That’s not exactly the transparency about which Gov. Pence credits himself.”
“If the governor and his Republicans want to chart their own way on early childhood education, without adequate funding, what does that mean for Indiana’s young children?” asked Errington “Indiana is one of only eight states without preschool education. Is that the ‘Indiana Way’ the governor is talking about? Gov. Pence, inadequate funding is a one-‘way’ ticket to failure for thousands of Hoosier children.
“Both the business and education communities understand the value of early childhood education,” observed Errington. “It is an investment in students to better prepare them for successful futures in school and life, so they can fully contribute in the workforce and as responsible citizens. Governor, we are waiting for a full explanation about why you rejected funding for preschool education. What you’ve said so far doesn’t satisfy anyone.”