As one of just a few remaining states without publicly-funded pre-K, Hoosiers can learn a lot from the experience of others: Numerous studies – going back decades, from urban and rural communities across the U.S. – show clear connections between early learning and educational achievement, health, employment and earnings (and savings in K-12 remediation, criminal justice and social welfare spending). We won’t dive into the data here – let’s just review the ABCs of ECE:
A is for Advocacy.
The cause of early childhood education has attracted a strong, statewide coalition of business and civic groups; earlier this week, advocates swarmed the Statehouse – well, we’ve learned the perils of estimating crowd sizes, but let’s just say it was a strong showing of Hoosiers passionate about giving low-and-moderate income children across Indiana access to high-quality pre-K programs.
B is for Budget (Impact).
The goals of the All IN for Pre-K coalition are actually quite modest: $50M – less than one percent of the total education budget – to expand statewide access to pre-K for four-year-olds from families living below 200% of the federal poverty line. Indiana would be following 41 states that have implemented and funded such programs.
C is for Capacity.
Cost is always a concern for new programs, but capacity is also an issue on the minds of legislators: Does Indiana have the high-quality pre-K programs to support a statewide expansion? Early learning experts are planning to scale up class sizes and recruit good teachers, building on progress already made through initiatives like Pathways to Quality. The existing pilot program satisfies just a sliver of total demand, and even plans to double the pilot would leave more than 80% of eligible children out of affordable, accessible programs.
Breaking down the budget, Pre-K and other education issues:
Governor Holcomb and House GOP leaders have laid out a budget that expands the pre-K pilot, begins a billion-dollar commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship programs, and supports long-term revenue plans for roads and bridges, direct flights to Indiana airports and the need for to double track the South Shore rail line to Chicago, to name a few highlights.
The Senate version for Pre-K expansion, SB276 Early Education Grant Pilot Program, aimed at supporting low income families with assistance for quality pre-k programs. It requires academic curriculum and parental participation standards for qualification. This bill is being held for two weeks by request of the author. Indy Chamber board chair Brian Sullivan testified for a statewide pre-K expansion, emphasizing the long-term economic and social value of ECE programs.
The House version of Early Childhood Education, HB1004, will be heard next Tuesday, January 31st at 8:30am in the House Chamber. Board Chair Brian Sullivan will be present to testify on behalf of the Indy Chamber and Chamber board member, Connie Bond Stuart will be providing testimony on behalf of PNC on the Chamber’s Return on Investment report which was done in collaboration with the Glick Foundation, United Way of Central Indiana and the City of Indianapolis. Make sure to follow @allIN4PreK on Twitter.
The Senate and the House have also been hard at work moving other education bills, including one requiring criminal background checks for teachers at the beginning of the school year. HB1079 Teacher Licenses states that employees would have to pay for a background check once every five years.
HB1281 Various Higher Education Matters is focused on increasing college enrollment by resolving various funding issues. This bill plans to make the 529 Education Savings Plan more accessible in heading the Senate floor.
Another education bill that the Chamber supports is HB1005 Superintendent of Public Instruction, which abolishes the office of the state superintendent of public instruction on January 10, 2021. The bill further states that after January 10, 2021, the governor shall appoint a secretary of education. Repeals a provision that a candidate for the office of state superintendent of public instruction must have resided in Indiana for at least two years.
What else is happening?
Along with ECE, infrastructure is perhaps the defining issue of this legislative session, giving legislators an opportunity to make a long-term impact on economic vitality. The House Ways & Means and Transportation Committees heard testimony on HB1002 Transportation Infrastructure this week; this bill is the Chamber’s preferred approach to a realistic, sustainable solution of growing infrastructure needs.
HB1002 allocates $1.2B on average per year toward road infrastructure maintenance, an additional $775 million per year to maintain existing local roads, indexes the gas tax and other user fees to inflation after an initial 10-cent increase; it also includes a $15 registration fee and $150 electric car registration fee. It requires INDOT to further study tolling I-65 and I-70, transfer the remaining sales tax on gasoline from the General Fund to the State Highway Fund. It further provides that all money from the $15 registration fee will go to matching funds or towards local funding. Indy Chamber CEO Michael Huber testified the bill’s characterization as a revenue recovery. Huber stressed that we must continue to make Indiana an attractive place to do business, in order to accomplish this there has to be a stable continuous revenue stream for upkeep of infrastructure. This bill passed 8-5.
And finally, among other issues of interest:
- HB1578 Cigarette Tax and Smoking Age seeks to increase the cigarette tax by $1.50 to $2.495 per regular size cigarettes and a corresponding increase for larger cigarettes. The bill also seeks to raise the age from 18 to 21 years of age for prohibitions and crimes concerning the sale, purchase, and possession of cigarettes and other tobacco products. We recently joined the Alliance for Healthier Indiana to support a comprehensive approach to increasing Indiana’s health rates. Indiana currently ranks 41st among states for overall health and 44th for smoking. The alliance will be hosting Raise It for Health Advocacy Day on Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 at 11:30 am in the Statehouse. It will be followed by House Public Health Committee which will be hearing HB1578 at 3:30 pm in the House Chamber.
- HB1036 Marion County Judicial Selection provides for a judicial selection process for Marion County Judges, responding to a 7th circuit court opinion challenging the partisan slating process for local judges currently in place. Indy Chamber Chief Policy Officer Mark Fisher testified in favor of the proposed legislation, advocating a merit-based process that would identify and elevate our best legal minds to the Marion County bench. This bill passed, 10-3.
- HB1306 Veterans Recovery Program provides that veterans with traumatic brain injury or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with treatment. Riverview Hospital in Noblesville has offered to lead the study and provide all costs without making any profits. This trial will find participants and will provide research on pretreatment, treatment and post-treatment process. Upon passage Riverview will start immediately at the proposed cost of $27,000 in year one and $25,000 in following years. This bill passed unanimously.
- HB1008 Workforce Development provides a credit against state tax liability up to $25,000 or 50% of the training expenses to an employer employs up to 250 employees receiving an industry level certification or full time employment with an employer in a high wage, high demand job who completes the training program.
- HB1397 and SB560 Work Opportunity Grant Program creates the work opportunity grant program to provide grants to employers that continue to employ certain eligible employees into a second year of employment. The bills also state that the department of workforce development administers the program, and creates a purchasing preference for employers that are awarded a grant under the program.
- SB438 Bias Crimes creates aggravating circumstance when a crime was committed with the intent to harm or intimidate an individual because of certain perceived or actual characteristics of the individual. It also requires law enforcement agencies to report bias motivated crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In order to support important priorities for the business community at the statehouse, our Political Action Committee is thankful for people and organizations like Andrew Mattingly, Chief Operating Officer at FORUM Credit Union, the first member of our Congressional Club in 2017! Help us advocate for you at the statehouse by contributing here.