INDIANAPOLIS (August 12, 2016) – The Indy Chamber joined the United Way of Central Indiana today in applauding a remarkable philanthropic gift and calling for statewide access to high-quality pre-kindergarten as a top priority for the Indiana General Assembly in 2017.
At the Day Early Learning Lilly Family Center in Mapleton-Fall Creek this morning, the United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) accepted a $5 million gift from retiring Eli Lilly & Company CEO John Lechleiter and his wife Sarah in support of early childhood education programs in the region. This $5 million gift has been matched by the Eli Lilly & Co. Foundation, raising the total gift to $10 million, the largest in UWCI’s history. Indy Chamber CEO Michael Huber lauded the Lechleiters’ commitment to early learning initiatives – but added that sustained public investment is needed for affordable, accessible pre-K for low- and moderate-income Hoosier families.
“Today’s four-year-old will enter a job market where 70% of all jobs require more than a high school diploma,” Huber said. “But children born into low-income households are much less likely to make it to college, and are much more likely to stay in poverty. Quality pre-kindergarten helps break the cycle by boosting high school and college achievement.”
The Indy Chamber, United Way of Central Indiana, and a growing coalition of United Ways and other corporate and civic groups across the state are pushing for legislative action through an advocacy campaign, ‘All in for Pre-K.’ Supporters are urging lawmakers to expand Indiana’s existing pilot program statewide and broaden income eligibility to families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
Huber argued that pre-K investment is a “down payment on tomorrow’s economy.” He referenced a report released last week by the Brookings Institution that ranked Indianapolis among the nation’s leaders in creating jobs that demand advanced science, engineering, technology and math skills.
“In an economy that runs on brainpower, preparing kids to learn is preparing them to succeed,” Huber said. “Executives like John Lechleiter understand the value of long-term investments – building a competitive workforce that meets the needs of our next generation of employers starts now.”
Indiana is one of just ten states without statewide, publicly-funded pre-K, leading to higher costs for parents and lower enrollment rates for Hoosier children. Huber noted that Indiana’s per capita income and educational attainment lag the rest of the nation.
“Real-world studies show convincingly that pre-K leads to higher earnings and employment, lower crime and healthier lifestyles,” Huber explained. “We’re preparing additional research that details how expanded pre-K in Indiana can pay off for Hoosier taxpayers.
“The business community is already ‘All in for Pre-K,’ and the incredible generosity of benefactors like John and Sarah Lechleiter is a testament to civic support for early learning. But public funding is the only realistic option to provide these programs for the Hoosier families who need it most. Acting now to invest in our children will shape what Indiana looks like at our tricentennial.”