The Indianapolis Star took a hatchet to a my Letter to the Editor published today. They cut over half of it, and took the liberty of changing my words. Honestly, what is the purpose of publishing the voice of the people, if the Star is going to edit it to fit their agenda?
The letter I submitted read:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the budgeted amount for Indiana’s grant, if awarded, would be much less, at between $5 and $20 million.
The Star editorial board changed it to read:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the budgeted amount for Indiana’s grant, if awarded, would be much less, at between $5 and $20 million (a year for four years).
They added incorrect information to my statement. It isn’t per year for four years. The total amount appropriated for Indiana’s share- for the entire four-year grant period- is only an award of between $5 and $20 million. If Congress appropriates more money for the grant, it could increase the amount. At this point, it has not been appropriated.
Swarens and others continue to use the $80 million dollar amount, counting funds yet to be appropriated, to create the appearance that Indiana walked away from a grant larger than it was. Apparently, they decided that I should report the same false information, while pretending to have voiced the opposing view.
It seems the Star editorial board is not capable of making the distinction between money that has been budgeted and money that still needs Congressional approval to be appropriated.
Nonetheless, they modified my words to make their point. Additionally, they cut out a substantial section of my letter which addressed other negative aspects of the grant which you can read below.
If the Star refuses to be a source of accurate information on Pence’s decision to reject the grant, it is the responsibility of those who supported it to spread the truth. Please distribute my letter as you see fit.
Indiana’s preschool program isn’t for sale
Governor Pence should be applauded, not criticized, for his announcement that Indiana would not seek the Preschool Development Grant offered by the United States Department of Education. Pence understands what the Indianapolis Star editorial board does not: Federal grants are never free. They always come with strings attached.
While Pence voiced valid and justifiable reasons for declining the application, the Indianapolis Star embellished the advantages of the grant program. The editorial claimed the federal grant had the “potential” to secure $80 million for Indiana’s preschool program. Not likely. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the budgeted amount for Indiana’s grant, if awarded, would be much less, at between $5 and $20 million. In order to create the illusion that Pence has turned down a pot of gold, the author included dollars that Congress has yet to appropriate for the grant program, and, thereby, are not guaranteed. Conversely, Indiana must guarantee that it will implement all aspects of the grant for the four-year period, regardless of additional funding being provided. Perhaps Governor Pence was not as willing to consider federal dollars, yet to be appropriated, as “potential” funding, and wisely determined the value of the grant based on actual numbers, not the future actions of an overly-dysfunctional Congress.
The author finds Governor Pence’s decision “perplexing and disappointing,” and laments the loss of 2000 additional “high-quality” preschool spots the grant could have funded. A back of the napkin calculation puts the cost at $10,000 a year per child, twice as much as state tuition support for Zionsville Community School District. Pence’s decision could have been driven by the need to avoid the additional expenses that a preschool program, strangled by federal regulations, would incur.
Unlike current FSSA childcare vouchers which cover the costs of preschool for families earning under 175% of the poverty level, the Preschool Development Grants don’t require the parent to be employed or enrolled in an educational or training program and increases the income eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level. Most Hoosiers would agree with Governor Pence’s decision to reject the creation of a new entitlement program which extends free, full-time childcare to parents who don’t work.
Pence might have been persuaded by Hoosier parents, who hold a different definition of a “high-quality preschool” than the one required by the federal government. For example, the grant mandates full-day attendance, which many parents understand their four-year-old child is not developmentally ready to endure.
Additionally, the programs must “routinely” test children throughout the year to monitor the progress of students and the ability of teachers, including screenings for behavioral, mental, physical, developmental, and sensory issues. The data collected from these assessments must be entered into the state’s longitudinal database to track the individual student into the workforce. Parents have repeatedly objected to the high-stakes, over-testing environment for their older children. The idea that any amount of federal funding would make it acceptable to parents to inflict this on their youngest is mistaken.
Governor Pence was wise to reject the Preschool Development Grant and tell the US Department of Education that the education of our youngest children isn’t available to the highest bidder, or in this case, the lowest.
Co-founder of Hoosiers Against Common Core