clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Amid key expansion, Indiana fills its On My Way Pre-K seats

Tori Wilburn, 5, reads a book alongside her classmates inside Allison Kempers' pre-kindergarten classroom on Thursday, April 18, 2019.
Tori Wilburn, 5, reads a book alongside her classmates inside Allison Kempers' pre-kindergarten classroom on Thursday, April 18, 2019.
Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar

After expanding statewide this year, Indiana’s prekindergarten program has filled all its seats — a significant milestone after facing challenges launching in new counties.

On My Way Pre-K is serving 3,517 children this school year, according to Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for the state’s Family and Social Services Administration. The program offers vouchers for low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to pre-K providers who meet high quality standards.

The state’s pre-K program started small in 2015 and had to tackle two big issues: getting the word out to families and working with providers to improve quality.

Last year, On My Way Pre-K did not reach capacity — a critical factor that kept lawmakers from increasing program funding. Instead, they decided to open up pre-K to all eligible families in Indiana, rather than restricting pre-K vouchers to 20 counties.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had pledged to serve 500 more families through On My Way Pre-K this year, while keeping the annual pre-K budget at $22 million.

Early learning advocates could leverage the growing pre-K enrollment to make the case for more funding to serve more children. With its relatively new program, Indiana trails most other states when it comes to public pre-K, and advocates estimate 27,000 4-year-olds in Indiana could be eligible for On My Way Pre-K.

This year, in order to reach more families, the state simplified the pre-K application, streamlined the income verification process, used feedback from families to improve its messaging, and increased its social media presence, Lemons said.

The state has closed the On My Way Pre-K application, so it is not tracking additional families who express interest throughout the year. But low-income families can still call a free hotline at 800-299-1627 for help finding a quality childcare provider or identifying other forms of financial assistance.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to providing the information families and educators need, but this kind of work isn't possible without your help.

Connect with your community

Find upcoming Indiana events

Sign up for the The Starting Line Newsletter

A monthly roundup of early childhood stories from across the country.