A publicly-funded pre-kindergarten program in Indiana is paving the way for thousands of children to hit the ground running when they enter elementary school.
According to local Indiana news affiliate WANE, the state of Indiana is currently funding the On My Way Pre-K Pilot, a trial preschool program that is the first of its kind in the area. As of now, five separate counties have combined to provide a pre-K education to more than 2,000 Indiana children.
About 90% of funding for the pilot program comes from the state, while participating counties fund the other 10%. The initiative has been met with widespread applause from those who believe that early education is a crucial step in ensuring that children are ready for elementary school and beyond.
“It’s going well. We have a lot of children who are getting the things that they need to enter kindergarten ready to learn, so you don’t have to do years of remediation when you have a strong program starting out with,” said Greta McKinney, executive director of MLK Montessori, a school in which pre-K classes are being held.
McKinney added that the program also provides children with important services such as health screenings and speech therapy, which can impact a child’s future if they aren’t addressed immediately.
“If you don’t have those foundational skills when you walk in the door in kindergarten, you’re already a year and a half up to three years behind,” said McKinney.
Preschool and pre-K programs are seen as crucial resources in the development of young children, and research supports its benefits. For example, kids who attend preschool do 21% better on math and reading tests in kindergarten than peers who do not attend.
“Starting children out in pre-K, you can assess all of those needs early on and help make children’s kindergarten experience a true, rich, learning experience because you’ve already identified their strengths and also their struggles,” McKinney added.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Indiana isn’t the only state that is placing an emphasis on early education. Two Utah organizations, Education First and Prosperity 20/20, are pushing the state to pass three bills that would offer public preschool to residents.
The bills would also expand full-day kindergarten programs and provide grant funding for teacher-training programs. Both groups echo the sentiments of Indiana’s administrators, noting that developing a solid scholastic foundation for their children will go a long way in benefiting Utah’s future economy.
As for the On My Way Pre-K Pilot, the state funding will expire in three years, and a decision to extend the program will be made after its results are reviewed. If its early success is any indication, one would assume that the program will continue for years to come.