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Marion County selected as pilot county for Pence’s pre-k program

Vada Schafer, a student at Shepherd Community Center's preschool, is pleased with the clown she colored in during a visit by Gov. Mike Pence in 2014.
Vada Schafer, a student at Shepherd Community Center's preschool, is pleased with the clown she colored in during a visit by Gov. Mike Pence in 2014.
Scott Elliott

Low-income four-year-olds in Marion County next year will have a new route to preschool.

Gov. Mike Pence announced today that Marion County was selected, along with Lake, Allen, Jackson and Vanderburgh counties, to pilot the state’s new preschool program.

The program, championed by the governor and approved by the General Assembly earlier this year, will spend up to $15 million in public and private money on tuition support for children to attend highly-rated preschool programs run by public schools, private schools and other providers.

“Every Indiana child deserves to start kindergarten ready to learn and to begin a lifetime of learning,” Pence said in a statement. “The state looks forward to partnering with these counties and working to ensure that these resources are made available to assist some of our most vulnerable children early next year.”

The program will launch in early 2015. The Family and Social Services Administration is now working on finalizing the major phases of the program, which include plans for a longitudinal study of the preschoolers’ test performance; creation of a new kindergarten readiness test; fundraising; and staffing.

The counties were selected from a list of 18 finalists. All of the finalists submitted applications, which FSSA’s early childhood office director Melanie Brizzi said demonstrates a high level of need and interest for early learning throughout Indiana.

The five chosen counties were picked because of their need and the county’s level or readiness for the program, Brizzi said.

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