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Indiana sets stage for early learning quality, workforce improvements under new law

Alan Mbathi
/
IPB News
Child care and early learning providers have struggled to adequately staff classrooms during the pandemic, resulting in some abrupt closures that have left families scrambling to find care.

Lawmakers renewed efforts this session to improve early learning opportunities across Indiana, approving changes to focus and grow the mission of the state's Early Learning Advisory Committee.

Part of House Enrolled Act 1093 – now signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb – includes new requirements and members for the state's Early Learning Advisory Committee.

The group will set goals for early child development and education, find ways to measure it, and assess state systems and sustainability – specifically aimed at funding and industry regulations. The committee will also include the state secretaries of education and family services, or their designees.

Early Learning Indiana CEO Maureen Weber said it's a promising step.

"I think this is all preparation work and the real payoff will be in the what comes next," Weber said.

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues. Trying to follow along with our coverage of the legislative session? We've compiled all the stories our reporters have published by bill number and topic here.

Part of the committee's updated mission from the General Assembly requires that the group creates strategies to strengthenthe industry's workforce. Child care and early learning providers have struggled to recruit and keep staff, especially during COVID-19.

Weber said offering better support for staff remains vital to increase availability for families across the state.

"And so if we don't kind of get in front of that problem – we're going to have built lovely spaces that are ready to house young learners and we're not going to have anyone there to teach them," she said.

Weber said she hopes next steps from lawmakers include more immediate action for families, and the elimination of burdensome requirements for providers while maintaining health and safety for children. She said Indiana will also need to have "difficult and honest" conversations about funding too, as pandemic relief supporting families and providers goes away.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.

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Jeanie Lindsay