Why Is Finding a Pre-K Program in Indiana the Worst?
With one of the largest child care centers in the area closing down very soon, I know there are a LOT of people who are feeling my pain right now.
Recently, our current child care situation has changed and we are looking for childcare/preschool for our four-year-old. And this isn't the first time we've been in this spot. And, I can tell you it is one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make - who is going to watch my child for the majority of her life? Who will teach her, feed her, take care of her, and help mold her into an amazing and intelligent person? It's my main source of emotional breakdowns...
Currently, there is no good answer (or at least one that I've found) - especially for preschool. And if you don't work from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with an incredibly flexible schedule your options are extremely limited. Several preschools/daycares close at 5 so good luck if you get off at 5. And, if you work retail, food service, or factory hours - just go ahead and quit now.
My daughter attends the most wonderful preschool and has an amazing teacher. But, after this year, I'll have no way to transport her at 12:30 PM to get there. I work 40 minutes away from her and I can't run to get her, drop her off and be back at 2:40. I'd spend my whole workday driving. So, let's see... I need a daycare/preschool combo. I mean, I've heard the horror stories about how Kindergarteners are expected to read War and Peace their first semester and finish out the year with a light load of quadratic equations and such. She HAS to go to preschool! She has to know these things or else she'll never catch up.
My family doesn't qualify for state preschool funding and these spots are filled before open enrollment to paying families. On the flipside, most private preschools are not open summers and breaks. Plus, they are wildly expensive and you have to provide transportation, meals, and additional daycare. I spoke to a school last week that had a $500 book fee for the PreK class and the yearly tuition was literally more than my college tuition. I was floored. It's a GREAT school but it's expensive and they still don't button up my daycare issues.
As it turns out, I'm not alone in feeling completely lost. If you are a working parent who can't just up and leave your job whenever you want, preschool is going to be next to impossible which is probably why Indiana ranked 40th in preschool enrollment last year.
According to indianapublicmedia.org, preschool was supposed to be a major topic of discussion for the State of Indiana in 2017. And, this "discussion" has gone back several years. They go on to say that, "Prior to 2014, Indiana didn’t provide any public money for preschool - and nearly half of all students started kindergarten without any kind of early childhood education." Now, if you want enrollment to On My Way Pre-K, you have to make below a certain income and even then it seems to be a lottery process.
The in.gov website states: Families in the five pilot counties who applied by the March 31, 2017, deadline will be chosen through a randomized, computerized lottery process the first week in April 2017. Chosen families will be notified by contact information listed on their application to set up an appointment with their local intake. At this appointment, you will verify eligibility and complete the grant process including choosing an approved On My Way Pre-K program.
The sheer lack of preschools and licensed daycares is a direct result of a lack of state funding. And instead of moving toward more funding for preschool education, Indiana is moving in the opposite direction.
According to the IndyStar, a powerful Indiana Senate slashed a proposed funding increase for a state program that sends poor children to preschool and gives parents software to help preschoolers learn at home.
But, that doesn't address middle and upperclass families who also need preschool/daycare options who wouldn't qualify for funding. Many parents are opting for their children to skip preschool altogether and are enrolling their child in Kindergarten for two years. But, I don't want my child to feel lost one year and bored the next. And, I don't want her to see friends move on and while she stays in the same grade.
So, ultimately the responsibility rests on me. I should have thought about all this before I decided to bring a human into this world AND have a career. Hopefully, our elected officials take this seriously and offer better solutions to working parents. In the meantime, if you have answers, please share them with me and the other parents out there. Remember, it takes a village!