Lilly Endowment pledges $22.5M for early-education programs

Lilly Endowment Inc. has pledged $22.5 million toward improving early-childhood education programs in Indiana, the foundation announced Thursday.

The Endowment has given $20 million to not-for-profit Early Learning Indiana, formerly named Day Nursery and perhaps best known in central Indiana for operating 10 early-childhood education centers and pre-K partnerships.

However, the funds will allow the group to help at least 400 early-childhood education providers throughout the state bolster their performance under state standards. Early Learning’s work will include helping providers improve curricula, build classrooms, educate parents about the importance of high-quality child care and education, and support professional development for teachers.

“High-quality early-childhood programs are one of the most effective investments we can make in the future of our state,” Early Learning CEO Ted Maple said in a prepared statement. “Working closely with partners across Indiana, we will do our part to build a system that helps prepare children for school, engages families and allows for the smartest use of public resources.”

The Endowment also has made a $2.5 million grant to United Way of Central Indiana to support ongoing efforts to strengthen early-childhood programs in the metropolitan area. The assistance will include creating classrooms, improving facilities, strengthening curricula and developing teacher expertise.

“These new grants extend and deepen the endowment’s commitment to improve the quality of early-childhood education across Indiana,” said Sara Cobb, Endowment vice president for education. “We know that the children who participate in these high-quality programs will have brighter, more successful futures.”

The grants come in the wake of work by political leaders in recent months to improve education opportunities for children up to age 5. State lawmakers this year funded a $10 million pilot program for 4-year-olds from low-income families in five counties.

In July, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard proposed a $50 million initiative to expand access to preschool in Marion County. Despite widespread support from the corporate community—which pledged to provide some necessary private funding—the initiative has been delayed by disagreements among City-County councilors over funding at the city level.

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