Report recommends expanding Indiana's pre-K program

  • Feb. 23, 2017


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Authors of a new report from an Indiana University research center recommend that Indiana spend more money and consider new funding mechanisms to expand its pilot pre-kindergarten program.

The report, prepared by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy for the Indiana State Board of Education and released today, compared data on 10 states that have implemented pilot pre-K programs and then expanded these programs beyond the pilot phase. It finds that states with the highest total amounts of state funding allocated to pre-K serve the most students.

The report and accompanying data visualization were prepared to inform decision-making on Indiana’s On My Way Pre-K Pilot Program. Publicly available data were examined on characteristics of state-funded pre-K programs; these characteristics were selected to provide comprehensive snapshots of state-funded pre-K programs in each of the 10 states examined. The data included:

  • History of program development and expansion
  • Funding source(s) and amounts
  • Quality standards for service providers
  • Eligibility requirements for students/families
  • Enrollment numbers
  • Number and types of service providers and measures of program effectiveness

Several states use lottery funding in addition to or in lieu of general revenue funds to support their pre-K programs. In most of the states, levels of funding and student enrollments have increased over time, said Colleen Chesnut, lead author on the study.

“Based on our findings, we recommend that Indiana policymakers increase the level of funding for state-funded pre-K programs, and that funding options in addition to the general revenue fund be considered,” Chesnut added.

States use a variety of criteria to determine which children should be eligible or prioritized for enrollment in state-funded pre-K programs, including factors like family income level, English learner status or developmental delay. In some states, communities can determine eligibility or priority criteria that will best serve their locality, CEEP research associate Thomas Sugimoto said.

“In some states, the only factor for eligibility for the state-funded pre-K program is a child’s age. However, funding levels limit the availability of programs for age-eligible children in some areas, so several states outline additional criteria to prioritize enrollment for at-risk children,” Sugimoto said.

The authors recommend not only an expansion of Indiana’s state-funded pre-K programs but also continued attention to the quality of these programs.

Program quality requirements, including measures and methods for assessing program quality, varied across the states examined. State-funded programs that met quality benchmarks outlined in research on effective pre-K education had lower staff-to-student ratios, highly qualified teachers, and research-based curricula, student assessments and program evaluation measures, said Anne-Maree Ruddy, CEEP director of education policy.

About the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

One of the country's leading nonpartisan program evaluation and education policy research centers, the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy promotes and supports rigorous evaluation and research primarily, but not exclusively, for educational, human services and nonprofit organizations and agencies. Center projects address state, national and international education questions. CEEP is part of the Indiana University School of Education.

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