Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction and the Democratic candidate for governor have unveiled their proposal for Indiana’s first statewide pre-kindergarten program. Glenda Ritz and John Gregg say the Hoosier Community Pre-K Program would give immediate access to pre-K education to 21,000 children in the first year.

The Indiana Department of Education says the first year of the program would cost approximately $150 million. The department estimates a 50 percent participation rate by 2020, which would make Indiana eighth in the nation for preschool participation.

"We know the benefits of early learning, that’s why John Gregg and I are committed to ensuring that every Hoosier 4-year old has access to a high-quality pre-K program as soon as possible," said Ritz. "My department has identified more than $200 million in existing state funds that could be used to expand capacity and opportunity right now. Our children and our communities deserve nothing less."

Funding for the program would come from existing state early education dollars, as well as capturing unused money from various child-related state programs, according to Ritz and Gregg. They say the program could be implemented without the use of federal funds.

"Every business leader I have spoken to over the last few years has told me how important this investment is to not only our state but to our economy," added Gregg. "We can work with our public schools and other high-quality providers to ramp up this program quickly and catch up with the rest of the nation. And, we can go after the federal dollars that Mike Pence turned down to help us grow even faster."

The duo unveiled the program after visiting with students at the Amy Beverland Early Learning Center in Indianapolis.