Jason Kloth handed me a memo with the numbers — numbers making clear the wisdom of the city’s new investment in preschool.
“They are incredible,” Kloth, the Indianapolis deputy mayor for education, said. “This is a demonstration of the overwhelming demand for high-quality preschool in Indianapolis. And it is an affirmation of common sense.”
He was talking about the number of low-income families that signed up for the city’s new preschool scholarship program. More than 5,000 applications for scholarships arrived before the April 30 deadline. Almost all of them — 4,967 — qualified for the program, meaning they came from families with incomes of 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level. That’s the level that qualifies children for free-and-reduced school lunches, a general indicator of deep financial struggles.
So many applications came in that the city will have to hold a lottery next week to pick the roughly 1,300 children who will be granted a scholarship this year. Those who understand how critical a role preschool can play in a child’s life hope the number grows in the coming years. I know I do. But it’s a wonderful start.
“The bottom line,” Kloth said, “is that all families want what is best for their children, and what is in the best interests of their children is also in the best interests of our city’s economic and social well-being.”
The preschool push was a hard one, fought on ideological and sometimes silly partisan grounds but finally pushed through by leaders across the city’s nonprofit, government and private sectors. The city’s investment, boosted by local corporate dollars, has been guaranteed for only a year. But it’s hard to imagine politicians will fail to get the message from the numbers, particularly those council Democrats who turned their backs on their constituents and their party’s longstanding agenda simply because a Republican mayor proposed the preschool plan . . .Because there is nobody at the Indianapolis Star who monitors the ethical misconduct of their personnel, I will continue to call out Tully for the obvious conflict of interest he has on this issue. Yes, Matt Tully is married to Valerie Tully. Yes, Valerie Tully is the chairman of the board of directors for Early Learning Indiana, a nonprofit which operates day care centers in Indianapolis offering early childhood education and which will benefit from the tens of millions of dollars being plowed into an initiative that has absolutely nothing to do with the services the City of Indianapolis is statutorily required to perform as a municipal corporation. And yes, Valerie Tully is employed by Eli Lilly, the corporate giant which has led the lobbying effort to force taxpayers in not only Indianapolis but throughout the state of Indiana to provide early childhood education services to parents statewide. It is absolutely astonishing that a newspaper would allow a columnist to write one column after another pining on a behalf of a matter that benefits his spouse. There are legitimate reasons for opposing the expenditure of our city tax dollars that have nothing to do with "silly partisan grounds" you conjecture, Mr. Tully, if you would only shed the ethical blinders you are wearing.