Early Childhood

$50 million preschool push a centerpiece of Ballard's plan to cut crime

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
A preschool class at Shepherd Community Center on Indianapolis' East side.

Mayor Greg Ballard today announced major new education initiatives aimed in part at combating an upswing in violence in Indianapolis, most notably a $50 million, five-year public-private effort to expand preschool for poor children.

The city will contribute half that amount — $25 million in tax dollars — to efforts both to pay tuition for children who cannot afford to attend highly-rated preschools and to help more preschools reach a high quality rating.

The new push from the city aims to transform the city’s lagging preschool offerings — less than one in six of 800 licensed centers meet the state’s highest quality standards — and put 1,300 more children in formal learning programs before kindergarten.

Separately, Ballard’s office will support a study of factors that push kids out of school: expulsion, suspension and dropouts. Experts say serious trouble in school is often a warning sign that children could face legal trouble and other problems later in life.

Ballard’s plan would expand preschool in 2015-16 just as a new statewide pilot program, also aimed at paying tuition for poor children to attend preschool, is scheduled to begin.

That program was created by the legislature in March, but only after it was revived by a push from Gov. Mike Pence after some lawmakers sought to shelve it. The state program offers $10 million preschool tuition support for about 1,000 children in five counties, including Marion County. When the program launches it will remove Indiana from a list of just 10 states that currently offer no direct state aid to help poor children attend preschool.

At the same time, Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is rapidly expanding the district’s preschool offerings for four year olds. Ferebee has said he hopes to make the program available to all IPS four year olds in no more than five years.

The Your Life Matters task force, named in June to connect community groups with troubled youth, will lead the study, examining questions such as why some schools have higher rates of serious discipline or dropouts, how children who misbehave can be kept in school and why disparities exist among schools and between racial groups.

The goal is for the task force to present findings to a legislative study committee that will meet later this year to explore whether there is a need for changes in state law on student discipline.

In March, federal education data showed a huge number of Indiana’s black boys — more than one in four statewide — were suspended in the 2011-12 school year, second only to Wisconsin nationally. By comparison, 11 percent of Latino boys and 9 percent of white boys were suspended that year.

Last year’s 146 murders in the city were an eight-year high and 2014 is on about the same pace. The victims include police officer Perry Renn, who was killed earlier this month.


Early investment

Foundations put $50 million behind effort to improve lives of young Detroit children

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
The heads of the Kresge and W.K. Kellogg foundations, Rip Rapson and La June Montgomery announce a $50 million investment to support the new Hope Starts Here framework.

The two major foundations behind the creation of a ten-year plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s youngest children are putting up $50 million to help put the plan into action.

As they unveiled the new Hope Starts Here framework Friday morning, the Kellogg and Kresge foundations announced they would each spend $25 million in the next few years to improve the health and education of children aged birth to 8 in the city.

The money will go toward upgrading early childhood education centers, including a new Kresge-funded comprehensive child care center that the foundation says it hopes to break ground on next year at a location that has not yet been identified.

Other foundation dollars will go toward a just-launched centralized data system that will keep track of a range of statistics on the health and welfare of young children, and more training and support for early childhood educators.

The announcement at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History drew dozens of parents, educators and community leaders. Among them was Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti who said one of the major impediments to improving conditions for young children has been divisions between the various government and nonprofit entities that run schools, daycares and health facilities for young kids.

Vitti said the district would do its part to “to break down the walls of territorialism that has prevented this work from happening” in the past.

Watch the video of of the announcement here.

Detroit's future

In a city where 60 percent of young children live in poverty, a ten-year plan aims to improve conditions for kids

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A coalition of community groups led by two major foundations has a plan to change the fortunes of Detroit’s youngest citizens.

The Hope Starts Here early childhood partnership is a ten-year effort to tackle a list of bleak statistics about young children in Detroit:

  • More than 60% of Detroit’s children 0-5 live in poverty — more than in any of the country’s 50 largest cities;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too early, compared to nine percent nationally;
  • 13% of Detroit babies are born too small, compared to eight percent nationally;
  • Detroit has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country;
  • Nearly 30,000 of eligible young Detroiters have no access to high-quality early learning or child care options.
  • That translates to learning problems later on, including the 86.5% of Detroit third graders who aren’t reading at grade level.

Hope Starts Here spells out a plan to change that. While it doesn’t identify specific new funding sources or propose a dramatic restructuring of current programs, the effort led by the Kresge Foundation and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, names six “imperatives” to improving children’s lives.

Among them: Promoting the health, development and wellbeing of Detroit children; supporting their parents and caregivers; increasing the overall quality of early childhood programs and improving coordination between organizations that work with young kids. The framework calls for more funding to support these efforts through the combined investments of governments, philanthropic organizations and corporations.

Read the full framework here: