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An early learning boost

Indiana's dismal performance in early childhood education is worth noting as often as possible, if only to shame policymakers into doing the right thing.

By the same token, it's worth noting whenever an Indiana institution or organization does the right thing in spite of the backward stance of the policymakers. So, bravo to Ivy Tech Northeast for its new Endowed Faculty Chair for Early Childhood Education. It's the first endowed chair for the community college's Fort Wayne campus, funded through a capital campaign.

The Dekko Foundation, with a long record of supporting early childhood programs, will provide $1.3 million for the endowed program. Becky Carothers, the current early childhood program chair at Ivy Tech-Northeast, has been named the Endowed Faculty Chair.

While Indiana is one of just 10 states that spends no state dollars on early learning, its elected officials use every opportunity to complain about students falling behind as early as third grade and punishing the teachers who must help them catch up.

It's like entering Indiana kids in a race against children from other states, holding them back at the starting line and then punishing them for not finishing first.

Programs like the new initiative at Ivy Tech are promising because they will raise the quality of early learning and help convince lawmakers stuck in the 1950s that preschool isn't baby-sitting – it's an essential step in educating children and in strengthening the state's economy.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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