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Indianapolis to Launch New Preschool Program

Hello, early childhood education fans! My name is Christina Samuels, and I'm the new writer for the Early Years blog, replacing my able colleagues Lesli Maxwell and Julie Rasicot. Lesli will continue covering English-language learners and school districts both for the newspaper and on her blogs, Learning the Language and District Dossier. Julie will also continue in her role as contributing writer for the paper.

As for me, I've covered education for 15 years, the last eight of them at Education Week. I'm also a new mother, so early childhood education is a cause newly near-and-dear to my heart. It also appears to be a cause close to the heart of Eugene White, the superintendent of the Indianapolis school district, who plans to launch a full-day preschool program for the district's 4-year-olds starting in the 2013-14 school year.

As reported in the Indianapolis Star, the district hopes to start out by enrolling 1,400 students. That would represent about half of the 4-year-olds in the 32,000-student district. Indiana is one of 11 states that does not provide state aid to preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, located in New Brunswick, N.J. The program will be paid for with a combination of federal and district funds.

The Star story notes that preschool has been on the agenda of the district for some time; a boost to early childhood was also proposed in late 2011 by The Mind Trust, a Indianapolis-based philanthropy that drew up a sweeping proposal for reforming the district.

These preschool programs do more than prepare youngsters for schools. Districts facing dropping enrollment see them as a way to entice families into the district, where they will hopefully stay and their children go through school. St Louis expanded its preschool offerings for three and four-year-olds and saw a bump in enrollment for kindergartners.

The new program in Indianapolis is just one of the programs that I plan to follow on the early childhood education beat. But I look forward to your ideas as well! Send me your emails. I look forward to covering the topics you find important in the coming months.

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