Early Childhood

City-County Council begins debate about how to pay for preschool

PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Preschoolers at Shepherd Community Center last year.

Paying for a new city-sponsored preschool program could get tricky for the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Under a proposal the city could consider this week using about $2 million from a reserve fund for the first year. A plan has yet to be figured where the rest of the city’s share of $20 million over five years will come from.

The overall plan is to spend $40 million on preschool through a public-private partnership among the city, businesses and philanthropy groups to serve 1,000 poor children. It was passed the council by a wide margin in December after months debate leading to a compromise between council Democrats and Republican Mayor Greg Ballard.

Democrats blocked by Democrats blocked the plan initially objecting to Ballard’s plan to pay for the program by repealing the local homestead tax. Council Vice President John Barth will propose appropriating $4.2 million for the first year of the plan at a council committee meeting on Wednesday.

“We’re moving forward with what we what we agreed on,” Barth said.

A proposal submitted to the council outlines about $2 million annually is proposed to come from the city’s fiscal stability fund. Once used to shore up the city’s finances, council CFO Bart Brown said it was tapped into recently to fund the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s latest recruit class.

City officials also plan to use about $1.7 million that was saved through a change to the homestead tax credit program, and tap into the county’s general fund.

Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth said the mayor’s office worked with Democrats and Republicans to foster support for the plan.

“We’ve gone to immense lengths to forge bipartisan support for the sources of funding,” Kloth said.

Preschool advocates including Eli Lilly and Co., which rallied businesses in support of the plan last year, are hoping the debate over how to fund the plan passes the Council without any hiccups. Lilly Foundation President Rob Smith said businesses have raised $6.2 million to support the plan so far.

“I’m confident this will pass out of committee and pass the full council,” Smith said. “There will be questions and a good debate, but it will pass and we can begin to really ramp up the implementation of this program.”

But some council members from both parties have already warned they would be watching to see what sources the funds come from before they give their final support to the program.

“Not one cent of this money should come from (police),” Republican Councilman Aaron Freeman said back in December. “Not one cent should come from the public safety tax. I will be a ‘no’ vote at that point. We should find another mechanism to fund this outside of that.”

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: