- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 5, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A bipartisan group of Indianapolis City-County Council members announced a plan Wednesday that could create $35 million in funding for preschool scholarships for low-income families.

The plans call for $15 million in city funds over five years matched by $10 million pledged by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lily & Co. and another $10 million from unidentified philanthropic sources, The Indianapolis Business Journal reported (https://bit.ly/1vJPZ6H ).

The group’s proposal is an alternative to one that Republican Mayor Greg Ballard proposed over the summer to fight the root causes of violent crime and poverty in the state’s largest city. However, Ballard quickly endorsed the new plan.

“I encourage the Council to get this agreement on my desk so I can sign it and we can start enrolling children in preschool next year,” the mayor said in a statement.

Council President Maggie Lewis and Vice President John Barth said they will introduce the plan co-sponsored by five other Democrats and two Republicans at Monday’s council meeting.

The scholarships would be available to 3- and 4-year-olds from families with annual incomes under 127 percent of the federal poverty level, a sliding scale that’s $30,290 for a family of four. Only high-quality preschools, as defined by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, could receive the money.

The council leaders said in a news release the $15 million in city funding will come from the elimination of 35,000 fraudulent homestead tax credit claims, funds currently used to oversee charter schools and interest generated by an $80 million fiscal stability fund.

Ballard’s plan would have raised $25 million over five years by eliminating Marion County’s homestead property tax credit that’s popular among Democrats who control the council. That proposal was tabled without discussion by a council committee in September.

Marion County also is among five counties selected for a pilot state program to enroll 4-year-olds from low-income families in preschool. The state program is due to begin in January.


Information from: Indianapolis Business Journal, https://www.ibj.com

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