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As the 2014 legislative session wraps up this week, state lawmakers are expected to decide on the future of state-funded preschool in Indiana. Photo credit: M. Kuhlman.With a possible decision from lawmakers by the end of today, preschool for some low-income Hoosiers could be just around the corner.Under Gov. Mike Pence’s initial proposal for a pilot program, vouchers would be provided for 1,000 children in five counties to attend preschool.Some lawmakers rejected that plan and called for a study committee on the matter.But Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Indiana, says a study and a pilot program could actually work together.“There have been significant studies that show that the return on investment for early childhood education is very, very significant,” she points out. “So we believe those studies should be very compelling.“At the same time we don’t believe we should wait to get going in helping our kids.”The governor has called the study of preschool vouchers a good thing, but renewed his call for the Indiana General Assembly to combine the study with a pilot program.Indiana is only one of a handful of states that do not have state-funded pre-k.The 2014 session is scheduled to end no later than Friday.Murtlow stresses preschool is not just about learning ABCs and 123s. She says statistics showeducation truly is the best path out of poverty, and a strong education begins in early childhood.“At risk kids who don’t receive high quality early education are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, about 40 percent more likely to become teen parents and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime,” she points out. “So early education really matters.”Whether it’s the pilot program, the study or both, Murtlow says advocates are pleased to see early childhood education getting attention at the state level.“We want to thank the governor for his committed stance on preparing our children for the future and for the legislators that have been supporting these bills,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see this kind of movement in Indiana and it really is critical to the future of our state.”