Big Names Come Together For Pre-K Push

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Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett took part in this morning's announcement. Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett took part in this morning's announcement.

Indiana business, government, education and philanthropy leaders have set the stage for a major push for expanded pre-k education funding at the state level. The group, including outgoing Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) Chief Executive Officer John Lechleiter, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Early Learning Indiana CEO Ted Maple, has launched ALL in 4 Pre-K, calling on the business community and state legislators to throw their support behind more pre-k funding for low-income students throughout the state.

Maple says demand is growing for quality pre-k access, and the current level of state funding only serves about 4 percent of the four-year-olds in the state. He says thousands more need help, and "this has to happen" through state funding. Indiana's current pre-k efforts include a matching grants program and a five-county pilot program. Maple says, with the state on strong financial footing, "we have a rare window of opportunity to make an investment in our children and an important statement about the future of our state in the upcoming budget session."

Hogsett says Indianapolis has seen success with the city's scholarship program, but adds "we've also seen too many families turned away because there's simply not enough money to build capacity and provide scholarships. As part of today's event, program leaders announced they had met the goal of raising $10 million for the city's pre-k program, thanks to support from companies and organizations including Lilly, Anthem Inc. (NYSE: ANTM), Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI), Dow AgroSciences, PNC, Indiana University Health and Pacers Sports and Entertainment.

All IN 4 Pre-K organizers say, while specific legislation has not yet been proposed, it has developed a roadmap of sorts, called "Success Starts Early," which includes a set of recommendations to guide a successful expansion. They include broadening income-eligibility requirements, increasing pay and education requirements for pre-k teachers and more closely aligning pre-k with early K-12 education to ensure continuity and long-term student success.

The unveiling comes a day after Lechleiter and his wife Sarah announced a $5 million gift to United Way of Central Indiana to support early childhood education efforts. That commitment has been matched by the Lilly Foundation. UWCI says much of that money will fund the expansion of high-quality early education centers in central Indiana and the growth of its Center for Working Families network.

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