Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Lilly Joins Push For Pre-K With $22.5 Million In Grants

There is plenty of energy behind the push for preschool in Indiana, and now one of the state’s major philanthropic organizations has provided some financial fuel.

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

Rachel Morello / StateImpact Indiana

Policymakers and educators around the state have embraced the push for more high quality pre-k programs.

This week Lilly Endowment Inc. pledged $22.5 million to support two early childhood education initiatives. A grant of $20 million will support Early Learning Indiana (formerly Day Nursery Association), and the United Way of Central Indiana will receive $2.5 million. Both organizations plan to use the money to strengthen current preschool programs as well as build new ones.

The United Way is a key player in Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s initiative to expand pre-k in his city. Ballard introduced the idea as part of a new plan to reduce crime in the city, and already plenty of other politicians have voiced opinions on how to pay for the program.

Eli Lilly and Co. has already pledged to support Ballard’s plan by soliciting $10 million in donations from the local business community, including a $2 million contribution of its own.

Kevin Bain, chairman of the state’s Early Learning Advisory Committee, praises these efforts and says initiatives like those supported by Early Learning Indiana and the United Way will allow for the early learning field to meet increased demand throughout the state.

“Investments of this scale can help transform the landscape of Indiana’s approach to this important work,” Bain said in a statement. “The Endowment’s commitment to advancing the quality of providers is a critical element in kindergarten readiness – an essential foundation for the child’s continued educational and workplace success.”

Interest in pre-k in the Hoosier state is catching fire these days, perhaps most notably with the beginning of the first state-run pre-k pilot program. The five counties participating in that pilot met for the first time with Governor Mike Pence and other state leaders last week to discuss preparations for the launch in 2015.

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz also announced in mid-August that Indiana will apply for a federal grant to establish the infrastructure needed to expand high quality preschool statewide.

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