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Online Preschool Draws Questions As Legislators Debate Scope of Proposed Expansion

Supporters fear pre-K software could come at expense of traditional programs

It's decision time for legislators on how, and how far, to expand Indiana's preschool program.

 

The Senate cut in half Governor Holcomb's proposed expansion, but added a million dollars for online preschool. Claudia Minor is vice president of Upstart, whose preschool software is in use statewide in Utah, and in Indiana in New Albany. She says the program helps pupils enter kindergarten ready to participate in learning. Minor says the daily 15 minutes at the computer gets them used to the idea of doing their homework, and helps them feel confident enough in their abilities to raise their hand in classroom discussion.

 

Michael O'Connor with Eli Lilly, which is part of a business coalition pushing for pre-K, says he's concerned the online program will divert resources from the traditional preschool program, which so far is in five counties.

 

The "All in 4 Pre-K" coalition wants to raise the income threshold to make more pupils eligible. But Markle Republican Travis Holdman, who authored the Senate version of the bill, says he's more concerned about helping the poorest families first. The program serves 1,900 kids now -- about eight times that many would qualify under the existing threshold if there were preschool available in their home counties.

 

Legislators need to reach a deal before next weekend's scheduled adjournment.

(Photo: Andrey Krav/Thinkstock)

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