Investing in our children, investing in our future
After a productive week with great strides towards education reform, we had a very exciting joint announcement from Governor Mitch Daniels, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long on Friday morning. With revenues for our state being higher than expected, the Governor has announced a $150 million increase in K-12 education spending and a complete extension of full-day kindergarten to every school in Indiana.
This announcement falls in line with our promise of budget integrity. Some of the increased revenues will be going to our state's reserves as a sort of rainy day fund. The original proposed budget allowed for 4.5% to be placed in reserve, but a best business practice is to have a minimum of 5%. The increased revenues will help us get closer to the 5% and our but it is a top priority that we provide our children with an excellent education through K-12, and full-day kindergarten gives them a solid start.
Full-day kindergarten has been shown to serve as an excellent education booster for children. It can help ensure that a student is on track for long-term academic success, especially among low-income and minority students. Teachers are able to develop learning programs for children at all developmental levels and have more time to drive home the main concepts of their lesson.
In fact, a study of the full-day kindergarten program at the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation showed that it had academic, social, and behavioral benefits for the students, and the full-day kindergarten children performed significantly better on standardized test scores than their half-day counterparts in later grades.
Full-day kindergarten programs also help kids go through fewer transitions in people who take care of them. In these days of working families, it is not uncommon for kids in half-day kindergarten to be cared for by relatives, day cares, and others while their parents are at work for the rest of the day. Full-day kindergarten may not entirely remove the necessity for outside care, but it does help out both parents and their children.
Full-day kindergarten for schools across the state was a big part of Gov. Daniels' agenda, but it has been held back because of the recession. "Having brought [full-day kindergarten] to roughly three-fourths of our 5-year-olds over the last four years, I have been eager to finish that job," he said, "and I thank those legislators whose support in restraining spending in other areas has created the discipline dividend that now makes it possible."
This increase in education funding comes at a time when most states are being forced to cut funding for their education programs. Ohio, South Dakota, Florida, and Pennsylvania have all been forced to cut their education spending by 10 percent. Indiana was forced to cut a portion of our education funding back in 2009 when state revenues were drastically lower than expected, but this $150 million boost helps us to begin to move in the right direction.
Speaker Bosma weighed in on the announcement reinforcing the point that our Caucus' core value "continues to be fiscal integrity. Because of that primary goal we are able to forward our commitment to K-12 education and put an emphasis on an early education."
I am very pleased that we are finally financially able to extend this program to all schools across the state. The last several revenue updates from the state were showing great improvement and higher than expected revenues, and I am pleased that we are directing much of that money to our children and thereby investing in the future of our great state.
Finally, another education announcement by the Indiana General Assembly's Budget Committee this week stated that the University of Southern Indiana (USI) will be receiving money to build a new Teacher Theatre on campus. The project will replace the existing theatre, costume shop and scene shop at USI. The proposed theatre will be approximately 21,929 square feet, will seat approximately 350 people, and will be constructed adjacent to the University Center.
This is an excellent project and I look forward to the jobs it will create for our community and the improvements it will provide for a university that consistently looks to provide the best possible opportunities possible for students' academic and personal growth, and helping the community.
Thank you for your continued feedback this session. We are quickly approaching our deadline of April 29th but I welcome your calls and e-mails. If you'd like to reach me, you may call 317-223-9671 or e-mail me at H75@in.gov.
Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler)