Can Indiana afford universal pre-K?

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Everyone agrees pre-kindergarten should play a major role in our child's education, but no one is sure how to make that happen.

Thursday, one lawmaker decided to do something about it by offering universal pre-kindergarten and mandatory kindergarten by age 5.

Learning to read at a young age can be a determining factor in a child's success.

"It's the time when you develop your love of learning or your not love of learning," said Melissa Lapworth Kuehl.

In fact, Kuehl says these years are crucial. She's not alone. That is why so many of Indiana's lawmakers are beginning to understand the importance of pre-kindergarten.

That is why State Senator Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) sounded this warning.

"Our state is stuck. We are stuck. We need to move forward and this is a way that we are saying we can do this," Lanane said.

Senator Lanane is proposing the state find $197 million to fund universal pre-kindergarten.

Kuehl has taught for 21 years, the last 14 in a preschool pre-K class at Orchard School. She currently teaches a mixed-age class.

"That is the one piece we are missing in the education system. Pre-K should be mandatory. Not everyday, three days a week or half days. It needs to be mandatory," she said.

If the state decides to have school districts offer pre-kindergarten would that lead to competition?

"I don't want to look at it like that. Cause I want all children to have the opportunity to have what our kids have here," said Donna Romack, director of preschool and elementary programs at Orchard School.

Lanane even went so far as to broach the idea of mandatory kindergarten, but realistically, he knows it will be an uphill fight. Lawmakers and schools districts will want to know how the state would fund it all.

He even alluded to how fellow lawmakers and school administrators will react to his proposal.

"Show us the money. We are saying we think we should show the money," he said.

Romack believes lawmakers will come up with the money if she could just get them inside the classrooms at Orchard School.

"If they even come here and see what is happening in the lives of young children and think this is making a difference in their lives. They will want it for all kids," she said.

Because when you are in the classroom, you realize all things are possible.