FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Millions of dollars of federal funding for early childhood education won’t be coming to Indiana because Gov. Mike Pence has decided not to sign an application for an $80 million federal grant.
The deadline for the grant was extended until Wednesday, and Indiana is only one of 16 states to qualify. However, Governor Pence said he’s sticking to his decision despite numerous appeals from lawmakers, Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and the State Board of Education.
Members of the Indiana State Board of Education said, “We are concerned that not pursuing these funds will leave low-income families across the state and especially in urban areas without access to high-quality pre-K programs.”
Likewise, Superintendent Glenda Ritz released a statement saying, “The work is done, all the application needs now is Governor Pence’s signature. I am calling on Governor Pence to do the right thing for Indiana’s students and families and submit this grant application.”
However, Pence wants the state to develop its own pre-K program without federal interference. He said state lawmakers will work to improve the first state-funded pre-K grant program lawmakers passed for $10 million earlier this year. However, Mary Lee Freeze, who oversees the 776 children in CANI’s Headstart and Early Headstart programs in Northeast Indiana, said there are limits on who can receive that funding, so the federal grant would expand the pool of eligible families.
“It’s money Indiana can have to provide preschool services to more children,” Freeze said.
She said access to early childhood education has numerous benefits for the community and economy. However, on Monday afternoon, Governor Pence released a statement saying, “I stand by my decision. Federal funding does not guarantee success. This is not about the money, it’s about our children, and we have an obligation to get it right.”
Allen County was one of the counties chosen to receive money from the $10 million state grant which students can use for vouchers. Freeze said the county did have to match the state funds by a percentage.