Indiana Public Media: Recent Report Says Pre-K Policies Play Key Role In Health

By Jeanie Lindsay

A new report ranks Indianapolis among the worst major cities in the nation for policies to support community health.

A group called CityHealth includes pre-K as a critical component of health. The group assessed different policies in key areas including transportation and education to assess how they support community outcomes.

CityHealth president, Shelley Hearne says the group looked at several areas, like in transportation or education, that can impact a child’s life:

“Without question, early education was the game winner for that category,” she says.

Hearne says research points to a number of benefits linked to universal pre-K access.

“Like improving graduation rates for those kids, or those kids finishing more grades,” she says.

Hearne says education and health are closely tied, so pre-K policies have a major influence. She added that high quality pre-K access can lead to other benefits, like higher wages and lower teen pregnancy rates.

The group used data collected by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) to rank city pre-K policies. An earlier report from NIEER ranks Indiana next to last in state funded pre-K access for 4-year-olds. Indianapolis was one of only seven of the nation’s 40 biggest cities that failed to earn a positive score.

The state recently expanded the On My Way Pre-K pilot program from five to 20 counties, but it also requires the parent or guardian of any child who uses the grant, to work or be in school.