Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 26, 2014

Early childhood education worth the investment

Goshen News

---- — Despite the support of the state’s Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, Gov. Mike Pence and House Speaker Brian Bosma, an effort to fund early childhood education Indiana will have to wait. Therefore Indiana will remain one of just nine states that does not directly fund preschool opportunities.

Instead, as Goshen News Statehouse Bureau Chief Maureen Hayden reported Monday, Pence’s proposed voucher-style pilot program that would have served as many as 44,000 of the state’s neediest 4-year-olds, has been rerouted to a summer study committee. That’s unfortunate in our eyes. Indiana lags behind the majority of the United States in pre-school initiatives and in many other academic measurements. We see early childhood education as an important tool improving overall scholastic performance.

STATE SEN. CARLIN YODER of Middlebury is opposed to Pence’s plan, citing parental responsibility.

“As a parent, it’s my responsibility to provide my child with the early education to prepare them for school, not the state’s,” he said. “The government should never try to take the role of a parent unless they’re forced to do it. And in this case, I’m not sure it’s our role.”

It’s not hard for us to understand Yoder’s argument. Parents do have that responsibility, and good parents like Yoder take it seriously. But there should be structures in place for the children of parents who may not value education like more-educated adults. We applaud Yoder and all the other many parents who make the education of their children a top priority in their households. The reality, however, is there are tens of thousands of children in Indiana each year who fall well behind in their development during the first five years of life because they were born into situations where quality educational interactions are neglected.

THOSE FIRST FIVE YEARS are the most critical in educational development. Kindergarten isn’t about learning how to tie shoes anymore. Kindergarten has become a more critical extension of the entire educational system. The ability range of many of these students can be staggering. Some are dropped off on the first day of kindergarten and can barely speak. Others arrive knowing how to read, write and use a computer. We need to narrow that gap by creating more early educational opportunities for the disadvantaged.

That said, it is responsible for our state leaders, including Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley from Noblesville, to show concern about the costs of state-funded preschool, in this case as much as $200 million annually, Hayden reported. Still, we believe preschool is a worthy investment and feel it could be the early foothold many children need to get their educational climb off to a solid start. It makes sense to us to frontload that investment and avoid remediations midstream.

It is our hope that the study committee will recognize the value state-funded preschool can have in Indiana and a workable plan comes to form for 2015.