IPS Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee in a preschool class at Eliza Blaker School (WIBC.com photo: Ray Steele)
The Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools supports the mayor's plan to expand preschool to more low income children.
After paying a visit to a preschool class at Eliza Blaker School (IPS School 55) on East 54th Street near College Avenue, Superintendent Dr. Lewis Ferebee endorsed Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to spend $25 million of city/county money on a plan that would allow up to 1,300 children to attend the pre-K class of their parents' choice. "Pre-K is one piece, but we also know how important other early education opportunities are from birth to K," Ferebee said.
About half of IPS already offers preschool classes, and Ferebee says his ultimate goal is to offer pre-K to anyone in the district who wants it, once the funding could be worked out. Though the mayor's funding plan would divert some money that currently goes to IPS for transportation, the mayor is also seeking $25 million in matching funds, which Ferebee says would help make up any difference. "We believe we'll be able to balance that, hopefully, with what's in our general fund that we will save through additional dollars we would receive for pre-K," Ferebee said.
The plan still must be approved by the City-County Council, and that approval is not a certainty since the mayor wants to fund the program initially by ending the homestead property tax credit. That would result in a property tax increase for about 40-percent of homeowners in Indy and Marion County, and the council has rejected ending the credit three times previously when Ballard proposed it to fund the hiring of more police officers. The mayor says he doesn't think the council can afford to not go along with funding preschool. "It pains me personally that, when you look back it, you wonder why we didn't do this in the past," Ballard said. "The whole education system will benefit dramatically from this proposal."
Ferebee and Ballard chose Eliza Blaker school for the media event because Blaker was among the first to push for and establish free public kindergarten in Indianapolis in the late 19th century.