Business leaders join the push for statewide pre-K 

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.”

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