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City leaders support proposed pre-K funding plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The city is another step closer to establishing a pre-kindergarten program for its children.

Wednesday night, a council committee approved the proposal that would appropriate $4.2 million for the first year of this pre-K plan. Next, the proposal goes to the full City-County Council for consideration.

After the committee vote, Mayor Greg Ballard released a statement calling it “an important step forward, getting us even closer to giving more of our children a better start in life.”

The pre-kindergarten program would provide scholarships to over 1,000 3- and 4-year-old children. The first recipients of these scholarships would be children in lower-income families, people making up to approximately $31,000 a year for a family of four. The scholarships would be as much as $6800 per student, if participating parents fulfill the attendance commitment. Children will be expected to attend at least 85 percent of the classes.

The pre-K program will, over five years, require an investment of up to $55 million dollars. Of that total, $20 million would come from the city; another $20 million would come from corporate and philanthropic sources.

The remainder would come from state contributions.

The committee also approved the appointment of United Way of Central Indiana as the program administrator.

Ann Murtlow, the President and CEO of the agency, said educators have devoted much attention to improving the quality of schools for children in the kindergarten years and beyond.

She said very little attention has been devoted to the needs of children from birth to the age of five “when 85 percent of the brain is developing — and we know that quality stimulation is absolutely required to make kids life-long learners, particularly our most vulnerable children to give them a real chance at success.”

Murtlow told the committee the agreement would pay United Way 7.5 percent of the expected cost of $4.2 million per year. That would be approximately $300,000 per year, she said.

“We actually think that the costs will actually exceed that amount,” she told the councilors.

Council Vice President John Barth, also a member of the committee, issued a statement calling the program “an example of how government works best.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans set aside politics and focused on a shared priority – putting our city’s kids first,” he said.

He said he looks forward to the final vote on the pre-K funding proposal at the meeting of the full council March 2.