INDIANAPOLIS – Education is one of the most valuable resources a state can provide to its citizens that also has overwhelmingly positive returns. The greater level of education one receives the less likely they are to be incarcerated, the more likely they are to attend a public university and be the type of skilled worker a state relies upon.

So it seems like a no-brainer for the state’s economy to provide as thorough of an education as possible for its children. But as of 2014, Indiana was one of only 10 states that neglected to provide state or universal-pre-K for its citizens. During the 2014 Indiana General Assembly, former Senator Earline Rogers (D-Gary) began the process to remove Indiana from that historic statistic by sponsoring HEA 1004 which kick started an early childhood education pilot program in five counties across Indiana: Allen, Lake Marion, Johnson and Vanderburgh.

But we cannot stop there. It is essential that we come together as a state to nurture young Hoosiers into becoming successful adults and the simplest way to reach that goal is to expand pre-k statewide until Indiana joins the three other states with universal pre-k.

If we don’t, we are doing a great disservice to the thousands of citizens across the state who cannot afford to put their children in an early education program. Those children are entering Kindergarten unprepared and are costing the state nearly $32 million per year because they have to repeat Kindergarten. Why don’t we put that money where it will be useful?

This year, the Indiana Senate Democrats are pushing for universal pre-K because it is the right thing to do and it is the smart thing to do. In a recent Indiana University study, for every dollar invested in pre-K, the state received a return of $4. Pre-K is a long-term economic development plan that works.

We shouldn’t be prioritizing some children over others. Affordable pre-K should be an option made available to all families in Indiana. We cannot keep leaving Hoosier children by the wayside. We will fight to ensure that every four year old in the state has access to a high-quality early education.