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Virtual pre-K education could be coming to Indiana

A Senate bill on pre-K has undergone a major change this week that could mean some four-year olds will be using the internet to receive their pre-K education in Indiana.

SB 276 is the Senate's effort to expand pre-K. The bill was heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee where a major amendment was added.

Although, the committee’s cuts to pre-K funding from $22 million to $16 million is getting a lot of attention, the inclusion of a new in-home, online pre-K program deserves additional scrutiny.

The bill currently sets aside $1 million for an in-home pre-K program. The in-home pre-K program would be a quasi-voucher program for parents to use state dollars to determine how their pre-k student will get pre-K education, virtually. Parents would use their voucher to purchase pre-K curriculum software, computer, internet service and any other resources needed.

In committee testimony on the amendment, Sen. Holdman described the program for committee members. Sen. Holdman made the point that the computer equipment purchased under the virtual pre-K program could be used after the preschool program ends, as well as by other students who live in the household.

It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize this virtual pre-K program transitioning into a feeder program for virtual charter schools who could continue offering families virtual curriculum into kindergarten and beyond.

Much of the conversation in committee centered on costs and logistics, and little on whether a virtual pre-K program where four-year-olds will be using computers is beneficial for their academic development. The record of virtual schools has been disastrous for kids in K-12.

The House bill expanding pre-K does so by also expanding the state’s controversial private school voucher program.

ISTA has a long history of supporting efforts to provide early childhood education to Hoosier kids. However, we oppose adding divisive or controversial language to do so.

SB 276 passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee, as amended, 12-1 and will eligible for 2nd reading amendment on Monday.