Last week, Governor Mike Pence rejected $80 million in federal money that would have gone toward providing pre-schooling for low-income children in the state.
Indiana isn’t exactly a stranger to cuts in education at all levels, both have occurred under Pence’s term and in the Mitch Daniels' era before that. And yet, despite being lower end on education spending per student among the 50 states, Indiana still has a graduation rate in the upper eighties, which is high. However, the state’s public pre-kindergarten services are slim to none.
There is debate on the merits of Pre-K for academic performance. However, studies have shown that beneficiaries of such programs are less likely to break the law, and have better developmental, motor and cognitive functions. In other words, the benefit is in socialization and mental development.
I discussed before how other countries have government programs operating at more advanced levels than we do, and similarly, another country is a good model for how Pre-K works. This time it’s France, where public preschool is provided to all children. They are guaranteed to learn all the beginner lessons and motor skills that they’ll need for regular school, whereas in the U.S. only those whose parents can afford to send them are so lucky. And it costs less per student than most public schools here.
So it’s no wonder support for Pre-K programs (maybe not programs as good as France’s, but at least something) crosses political lines more so than other issues. It’s also no surprise that the Governor’s decision has been met with disappointment from many state businesses that are generally supporters of his. His rationale for doing so sounds like political speak, like it was more out of an anti-federal ideological position than pragmatic. But frankly, what’s most important is that children get the best education, not that each plan fit within one ideology. And it would be best if children’s education gets started on the right foot when they’re most impressionable.