Early Childhood

Ballard hopes big money leads more kids to better preschools

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to spend $50 million for preschool for the city’s poorest children will tackle two issues: making sure 1,300 more children can afford to enroll and growing the number quality of centers in the city.

“Our vision is for every child in Indianapolis to have access to a voluntary, high-quality early childhood education that prepares him or her for a successful academic career and success in life,” according to the mayor’s proposal.

The city will invest $25 million in tax dollars, and expects to raise an additional $25 million in matching and philanthropic support, to support the plan.

The first scholarships are expected to be awarded to students in 2015-16.

Momentum for expanding access to early education in Indiana has picked up significantly within the last year after more than a decade of relatively little meaningful change.

Still, the mayor’s office estimates that between 3,000 and 6,000 more four-year-olds could enroll in preschool if they could afford it and there were seats in quality centers in Marion County.

Gov. Mike Pence was the champion of a bill that passed the legislature this year offering direct aid for poor children to attend preschool for the first time in state history. Indiana will no longer be among 10 states with no state support for early education when a pilot program launches in 2015. Marion County, along with four other Indiana counties, were selected to be part of the program, which will provide tuition support to between 1,000 and 4,000 four-year-olds starting next year.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee also has been a strong preschool advocate, telling the school board this summer that he believes the district could offer universal preschool to four-year-olds within five years or sooner. The district also has increased access to its free preschool program over the last two years.

And new partnerships between private, high-quality preschool providers, such as an agreement by Day Nursery Association to offer preschool at Indianapolis charter schools, could offer families even more options.

Making preschool affordable

Most of the funds will be directed toward making sure more families can afford to send their children to preschool.

The city expects that $8 million annually for the next five years in public and private money will support student preschool tuition. The scholarships — $6,800 for full day programs and $3,400 for half day programs — will serve about 1,300 children.

The public funds will come from eliminating the homestead tax credit, which Ballard has advocated for since 2012. Eliminating the credit is expected to bring in more than $7 million annually to the city.

The mayor’s office estimates that the average high-quality preschool program costs between $4,700 and about $7,000 per year. Using the federal standard that identifies families of four making less than $24,000 annually as impoverished, sending a child to preschool would eat up at least 20 percent of that family’s annual income.

Indianapolis will create its own preschool scholarship program to support a family of four making up to $44,400 annually. United Way will work with preschools and school districts to create the scholarship program.

Increasing access to quality programs

The city also hopes to funnel $10 million in public and private funds to access the lack of high-quality preschool providers in Indianapolis.

The investment by the city will help launch new high quality preschools and assist others improve their ratings.

Marion County has nearly 800 licensed preschools, most of which are low rated. Only 15 percent of those providers are ranked high enough by Indiana’s rating system to qualify for the mayor’s program today. Nearly half aren’t even enrolled in the state program that rates preschools.

Ballard envisions helping those schools to get better rating scores, with grants for improvements to their buildings to promote health and safety, and support to establish curriculum for student learning.

While Indianapolis children won’t receive preschool scholarships until 2015, the United Way of Central Indiana, a social services agency charged with designing and overseeing the plan, will spend the next several months working with consultants and the mayor’s office to convene public meetings, raise private money and develop a grant process.

The City-County Council also needs to consider and vote on the mayor’s proposal.

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: