Bipartisan Letter to the Editor on Pre-K Published in the Indy Star

November 30, 2014

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.

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Statement on Pre-K Proposal Introduction

November 11, 2014

Statement from Council Vice President John Barth on Pre-K Proposal Introduction

“The bi-partisan Indianapolis Pre-K Proposal 367 was introduced at tonight’s City/County Council meeting. It includes provisions we worked hard to include since pre-K plans were first announced, including serving children beginning at age 3, and serving families at the lowest income levels first. Proposal 367 requires the pre-K funds, raised from the city, be used for student scholarships only and that only high quality centers are eligible.

I am proud of the work that was done across party lines and with the input of many community supporters of pre-K, including Eli Lilly & Co. which has pledged to raise $10M for this effort.

This proposal will be heard in committee at 5:30 on 11/11 at the City/County Building.
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New Day for Indy Pre-K

November 5, 2014

New Day for Indy Pre-K

Bipartisan proposal that serves neediest families set to be introduced Nov. 10; expands access to three-year-olds; pays for pre-K scholarships; does not raise taxes

Indianapolis – City/County Council President Maggie Lewis and Vice President John Barth, along with a bipartisan group of Councilors, announced today they will introduce a proposal to establish the Indianapolis Pre-K Program at the Council’s November 10th meeting.

Recognizing that families with modest incomes have the least access to quality pre-K, the proposal focuses on families whose annual income is less than 127 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, 127 percent of the federal poverty level is an annual income of $30,290. The program will serve both three and four year olds.

“The Indianapolis Pre-K program will provide access to high-quality early preschool to help close the learning gap for those most in need,” said Council Vice President John Barth. “I’m proud that, through hard work and careful negotiations, this proposal has earned bipartisan Council support as well as support from the Mayor’s Office and the corporate community. But I am most gratified that it will help children in our community get a better start in school.”

Proposal 237 is co-sponsored by Democrats Maggie A. Lewis, John Barth, Leroy Robinson, Pam Hickman, Steve Talley, and Mary ‘Moriarty Adams and Republicans Jeff Miller and Ben Hunter.

Pre-K Program Highlights:
• Covers children starting at age three.
• Targets families at or under 127 percent of the federal poverty level (program can serve families at higher FPL levels with Council approval).
• Funds only high quality pre-K providers, as defined by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Paths to QUALITY program.
• Creates a process for oversight and accountability by tasking the Council’s Community Affairs and Education Committee to oversee the overall program and its budget.
• Limits spending to pay for direct services to children only, not provider capacity building. Funds from the corporate community will be used for pre-K provider capacity building.

“This pre-K proposal keeps the focus where it should be – on our city’s most at-risk families by ensuring that their children have access to high quality early childhood education,” said Council President Maggie A. Lewis. “This proposal puts forward a high-quality pre-K program and gets our city’s youngest and most vulnerable residents on a path to good education and brighter future.”

“Council leadership thanks Mayor Ballard for proposing the initial concept of a pre-k program for Indianapolis”, President Lewis continued. “We also thank Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth, Chief of Staff Jason Dudich and former Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn for their work with the Council in developing the initiative”.

The sponsors have identified $15 million to dedicate to this program over a five-year period, with a commitment to identify additional funds each year. Identified funds include savings from removing 35,000 ineligible homes from the Homestead Tax Credit program, reallocation of funds currently used for oversight of charter schools, and interest from the Fiscal Stability Fund.

“I’m pleased to be a co-sponsor of this proposal; it shows what can be done when elected officials put politics aside and work together on the priorities of our city,” said District 19 Councilor Jeff Miller.

If the ordinance is approved, the city’s investment will leverage $10 million in Indianapolis private sector funding, which Eli Lilly and Company has pledged to raise. In addition, the program is expected to leverage an additional $10 million in philanthropic and other donations – fully separate from the Indianapolis private sector investment. The Indianapolis Pre-K Program is a pilot over five years, funded from public and private funds, aimed directly at providing a path for children from venerable families to a better education and a better life.

“I applaud the leadership and vision of the Indianapolis companies who are committed to helping expand early childhood education opportunities in our community, especially Eli Lilly, who is a cornerstone of this pre-k program,” said President Lewis.

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