It’s the opportunity to significantly improve thousands of lives for years to come, to help struggling families secure a strong foundation for their children and to reverse in the long term the horrific surge in violent crime that plagues our city.
The opportunity to accomplish all of this came in an unlikely package — a public safety plan recently proposed by Mayor Greg Ballard, which includes, along with more police officers and tougher prison sentences, a call to invest $50 million in public and private money in early childhood education . . .
Eli Lilly and Co. also has stepped forward in a big way. The company recently pledged to raise $10 million over the next three years from the business community, including $2 million from its own foundation, to invest in high quality preschool programs.
Yet, there’s still misguided resistance to the plan on the City-County Council. This past week a council committee shot down, for now, a proposed funding mechanism for the preschool expansion, a move that puts the entire plan in jeopardy.
Opposition to the proposal is driven by council Democrats who fear giving a Republican mayor a key policy win a year ahead of the next election. Such blatant partisanship -- which shamefully puts political concerns ahead of children’s needs -- has become increasingly frustrating to key leaders in the city . . .The Star's editorial makes no acknowledgement whatsoever that it has never been the responsibility of city government to fund public education. And far be it from the editors to ignore convincing evidence that children receiving some form of pre-K education are no less likely to drop out of school than those who don't. Yet anyone who opposes the mayor's pre-K initiative is doing so for partisan purposes only. The Star's editors simply pretend that the only real Republican on the City-County Council, Christine Scales, is not also against the idea. It has to be that she just doesn't like the mayor, right? No, she offers very cogent reasons for not distracting the city from its core municipal functions, but the Star allows no room in its publication for opposing viewpoints. Can't have that.
By insisting on characterizing pre-K funding as a public safety initiative, the Star shatters all credibility. It even suggests that part of the package council members are being asked to support is tougher prison sentences when it knows full well that city government has absolutely no control over sentences that are handed out to criminal offenders.
Once again, it uses the mantra that Eli Lilly wants it. Ergo, it has to be good for the city, right? Who in the hell is Eli Lilly to be telling Indianapolis city leaders it must raise taxes to fund education initiatives, particularly when the mammoth-sized tax abatements it successfully obtained from city government on the promise of more jobs that were never produced is partially responsible for fewer dollars being available to fund basic city services, including public safety?
The Star's political columnist is back again with yet another column touting the mayor's pre-K initiative. This time he snarkily acknowledges that his wife works for Lilly after this blog pointed out that his wife works in a high-level capacity for the company, and that she also chairs the board of the Day Nursery, which is likely to be one of the beneficiaries of funding to be offered under the mayor's proposal. Her role with the Day Nursery still gets no nod from Tully because he says she doesn't get paid for her volunteer work there.
The mayor has proposed an ambitious preschool program with a modest price tag. It’s $5 million a year, matched over the first five years by corporate and nonprofit money. Eli Lilly and Co. (yes, my wife’s employer) has already for the effort.Tully's favorite Democratic councilor, John Barth, explains to him that it's a matter of priorities among spending ideas. The good news Tully tells us is that Barth and the mayor's deputy mayor for education, Jason Kloth, are taking the lead on negotiations concerning the issue. Kloth serves on Day Nursery's board of directors with Tully's wife. Again, Tully knows of this obvious conflict of interest in Kloth making policy decisions for city government and, at the same time, trying to push initiatives that benefit a specific nonprofit organization of which he's serving in a fiduciary role. If Kloth were advocating something Tully or the Star opposed, you can bet his conflict of interest would be front-page news and the subject of tongue-lashing editorials and columns.