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Undocumented Immigrant Children Banned from Indiana Preschools

First posted on the Early Years blog

By Lillian Mongeau

Children who are living in Indiana illegally will not be allowed to enroll in that state's new preschool program. Nor will they be allowed to enroll in Indianapolis' new city-based program, which Mayor Greg Ballard has touted as a solution to kindergarten readiness for low-income families in his city.

In her story explaining the citizen-only policy for Chalkbeat Indiana, Hayleigh Colombo nails the key question on the head: "How can public schools be barred from excluding those kids while publicly funded preschool programs are free to do so?"

Apparently, it's because the federal policy requiring that public schools serve all comers extends only as far down as kindergarten, leaving states to do as they will regarding preschool.

"This maintains consistency in policy among our early childhood education programs," Jim Gavin, a spokesman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, told Chalkbeat. He said other state funds for early childhood education also require proof of citizenship. 

Despite the policy, there has been some effort to reach out to families who do not speak English as a first language. Applications for Indianapolis' public preschool program were sent out in four languages. Acceptance letters, however, were only sent out in English.

Colombo found at least one public school that has found a work-around to accept non-citizens; the school uses federal dollars to fund some preschool spots for children who don't qualify for state-funded spots.

Exactly how many otherwise eligible children will not be able to enter preschool programs because of this rule remains to be seen. I, for one, am looking forward to more detailed reporting on the issue by Colombo. In the meantime, read her more detailed version of this story here.

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