Pence looks to salvage agenda with preschool pitch


The pressure is on at the Statehouse. Lawmakers have a little more than two weeks left to get things decided.

One big issue still out there is the early education Pre-K voucher plan. Governor Mike Pence went on the offensive Wednesday on that issue.

It is a tough sell. The House proposed a pilot program voucher plan, the Senate proposed a study committee. Wednesday, the governor said he wants both.

Pence took his crusade for a preschool pilot program to an actual preschool Wednesday.

"You have a mustache," one four-year-old exclaimed as the governor picked up a picture the class drew of him.

"Yes, I don't have a mustache but I am open to it," Pence said.

The governor has been open to a lot of ideas being thrown his way recently. He supported a pilot early education voucher plan unveiled in the House, but the Senate decided it should go to a summer study committee.

Now, he wants to do both.

"I do believe that to act and to study is the right step this year for the people of Indiana and the state of Indiana," Pence declared.

"My daughter starts reading now. She knows the letters, the numbers and she can write out her name," Jenny Izaguiree said.

She has two children attending Shepherd Academy in Indianapolis. Her youngest is in a Pre-K class for four-year olds. Ninety-seven percent of students enrolled in the class are on either public or private vouchers.

"I feel like she is ready for kindergarten now," Izaguiree said proudly.

"So when they go into kindergarten, they are already used to the mornings of getting up early. They are already used to the homework, of being a student," the classroom teacher told the governor.

"So they arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, because of the familiarity with the classroom environment," Pence said.

"We do have waiting lists for threes and fours, so there is a huge need of people wanting to come. As Jenny shared, they feel like they can't afford it, so they don't even bother to inquire," said Sonna Dumas, director of Shepherd Academy.

Indiana is currently one of only nine states that does not commit public resources to quality Pre-K. Pence wants to change that, but so far, lawmakers prefer to study what other states are doing and take it up next year during a budget session.

The governor is not alone on this issue. The Indiana Chamber concurs, saying a study committee alone is simply not enough.