Free pre-K program could expand across Indiana

Indiana News

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indiana lawmaker is encouraging Hoosier families to apply for a free, state-funded pre-K program as he seeks to expand the program across the state. 

Thousands of spots are open for the On My Way pre-K program, which is free for Hoosier families that qualify.

State Rep. Bob Behning, a Republican from Indianapolis, is urging families to apply.

“Currently, it’s only available in 20 counties,” Behning said. “Under (House Bill) 1628, it will be available statewide. We are continuing to focus on level 3 and 4 pathways to quality, which are high-quality pre-k programs.”

Claire Squires and Chiloh Williamson enrolled their 4-year-old son, Axl, at Day Early Learning last August.

“He’s very smart, very precocious. He’s really blossomed into himself. He already had the structure,” Squires said. “He already had who he is, but they really have filled in a lot of the spaces he needed. The social-emotional stuff.”

Axl’s parents are both full-time students, and money is tight. It was a real struggle to pay about $250 a week for other pre-K programs.

“It was very daunting to think ‘OK, We’ve got this week covered. Now, what are we going to do for next week?’ and try to stay that step ahead,” said Chiloh Williamson about the previous daycare experience for her son.

Thursday, they’re one of the familes in Indiana’s On My Way pre-K program. 

“The fact that we’re not having to worry how we’re going to pay for his tuition is a relief,” Williamson said.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he wants to add at least 500 children to the program every year, expanding it statewide.

“It gives kids that boost so they’re actually ready when kindergarten begins,” Behning said.

A Senate committee OK’d Behning’s bill on Wednesday. The bill already passed in the House.

Behning is on a mission to get more families to apply.

“If you’re eligible for TANIF, SNAP benefits, Medicaid, you’re generally going to be available for On My Way Pre-K. We’re looking at ways to simplify the system,” Behning said.

“Don’t be afraid of the paperwork,” Squires said. “Don’t be afraid of the interview. Give it a try. It can only help.”

To learn more about Indiana’s On My Way pre-K program, click here

To find out if you qualify, and to apply, click here

If you have questions and would like to speak to someone, call the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration at 1-800-457-8283.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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