The following Letter to the Editor, on Proposal 367, was published on the Indy Star on November 30, 2014:
Indy’s preschool plan will launch kids in right direction
By Councilors Barth, Lewis, Robinson, Hickman, Moriarty Adams, Osili, Miller, Hunter, and Shreve.
Tomorrow, the Indianapolis City/County Council has the opportunity to set a new course for children in our community who start school at a disadvantage, and face a future where they may never catch up.
With the child poverty rate having doubled in Marion County since 2000, it is time to take a bold step and send a clear message – educating our young Indianapolis children is a top priority and helping level the playing field will benefit those most at-risk by closing learning gaps.
There will never be complete agreement on issues like vouchers, charter schools, testing and evaluation. Both Democrats and Republicans see division within their own parties on these issues. However, no one can dispute this simple fact: children who start school already behind and unprepared are going to struggle and they should not have to.
Quality pre-K instruction can help launch students in the right direction and that is why this bipartisan group of Indianapolis City/County Councilors are co-sponsoring Proposal 367 which establishes the “Indianapolis Pre-K Program” as a five year pilot.
When Mayor Ballard proposed the idea of City/County government funding pre-K, the corporate community stepped up, led by a championing Eli Lilly & Co. pledging to donate and raise $10 million from the corporate community. This unprecedented contribution gave the Council and the Mayor the unique opportunity to develop a much needed program that is vital to the future of the city. Working together, across party lines, over several months, the Council, the Administration, and the corporate community developed the proposal we will vote on during our December 1st meeting. Key program elements include:
• Start kids in pre-k early – kids can start at age 3;
• Ensure that our city’s most vulnerable families are served first – the program targets families at or under 127 percent of the federal poverty line ($30,289 for a family of four);
• Only fund pre-K slots at high quality providers as defined by the two highest quality categories set by the state’s Path to QUALITY program.
• Interactive oversight will be provided by the Council’s Community Affairs and Education Committee.
Make no mistake, this is a big step, but it is just a beginning. To truly serve all the children of Indianapolis we will look to the Indiana General Assembly, who has the responsibility for education in our state, to pass a state-wide pre-k program that will benefit every Hoosier child. As we wait for the state to take promised action on early childhood education, we believe that the Indianapolis pre-k program is an important step for the city to take to ensure that our families most in need of support can get their kids off to a strong start in life.