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Private Money Could Help GOP Mayor Launch Public Preschool in Indianapolis

Two private donations could help Indianapolis launch its $350 million public preschool initiative, if the Republican mayor can get the plan approved by a Democrat-controlled city council.

The PNC Foundation, funded primarily by PNC Bank, has offered $500,000 to make public preschool in Indianapolis a reality. And the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, mainly supported by Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, have pledged $2 million. But the city only gets the money if its leadership can agree on how to pay for the rest.

"PNC's funding support will be contingent upon the willingness of Mayor Greg Ballard and City-County Council to act now on a plan to expand access to high-quality preschools in Indianapolis," Connie Bond Stuart, PNC regional president of Central and Southern Indiana, speaking on behalf of the PNC Foundation, said in a statement. "The city has a viable opportunity to provide life-changing help to hundreds, eventually thousands of vulnerable children."

Indiana approved a pilot public-funding program for preschool that will launch in four counties next fall, including Marion County, where Indianapolis is located. State funds are expected to cover preschool tuition for about 1,300 children in the city. The mayor's office estimates that's less than half the number who might enroll if they could afford it, according to Hayleigh Colombo's Chalkbeat Indiana story about the new plan.

Perhaps the most fascinating twist in all this is that Ballard's original plan to pay for Indianapolis' portion of the new program was to end a local tax credit program. Who shelved that idea? The Democrats who run the Indianapolis City Council. They argued that eliminating that particular tax break would mean less money for school districts, which are reimbursed by the city for the savings that homeowners get from the credit. 

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