By Megan Powell
The business community is joining the push to expand high-quality pre-K in Indiana.
Eli Lilly, Cummins, PNC and other business are forming a coalition with United Way of Central Indiana to work with lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session.
“It is our strong belief that high quality early childhood education, or Pre-K, should be available to vulnerable families,” Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter said.
Though specific legislation has not yet been proposed, the coalition has outlined goals to help make pre-K available statewide which include:
- Broadening income-eligibility requirements for families
- Increasing pay and education requirements for pre-K teachers
- Aligning pre-K with early K-12 education
- Expanding the capacity for high-quality providers to serve students
“Put simply, we can’t afford not to invest in pre-K,” Ann Murtlow, United Way of Central Indiana president and CEO, said.
Five counties are already involved in a pilot program designed to provide pre-K to disadvantaged children. The programs, however, have a limited number of seats and children are being turned away.
Murtlow said they are aware of other high-quality education programs within the state who meet the capacity to accept more children “today if only they had access to state scholarship dollars.”
“Without well-funded early childhood programming, many of our students, too many of our students, begin kindergarten and first-grade already behind,” Mayor Joe Hogsett, D-Indianapolis, said.
All parties involved have been working on the logistics and funding of the program for over two years.
“Finally and fundamentally, all of us here today rely upon a diverse well-educated workforce to be successful,” Lechleiter said. “We need a great education system in Indiana to help develop that work force and high-quality early education is the foundation of such a system.”