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Preschool fails because it succeeds

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dennis Kruse offered the most startling justification for not passing even a pilot program for state-funded preschool in the just-ended legislative session:

"The pilot wouldn't be too expensive, but the objective there is that it probably would work out and they'd want to come back and fully fund that, which could be $150 million a year, which would be a lot of money," Kruse told StateImpact Indiana's Elle Moxley.

Of course. That was the problem with kindergarten – it was so effective in its half-day form that educators came back and wanted money for full-day kindergarten.

In what other universe could you excuse inaction by arguing you can't do something because it would work? And if Kruse truly believed school vouchers were an effective way to improve education, why wouldn't he have made the same argument in dropping the initial effort to pass them? Even without evidence of success, the voucher supporters came back and demanded more – and got it.

Considered in other terms, the GOP-controlled legislature did succeed in killing efforts to move Indiana into the 21st century in providing preschool. It was a struggle, given the lip service some leaders gave to the topic and the fact that the handy "there is no money" excuse wouldn't work this year.

In the end, inaction prevailed and schools will continue to compete against states with a one- or two-year start on learning. Indiana can continue to keep company with Mississippi and Idaho in the early learning cellar.

Here's our editorial take on their "preschool paralysis."

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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