Today's guest blog comes from Lilly's Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility, Rob Smith.
Over the last few weeks, Lilly has been advocating for greater public investments in high-quality early education. Our partner, the United Way of Central Indiana, has been doing great work in this area for quite some time. However, our city – and ultimately, the State of Indiana – must provide more public funds to accelerate the work.
We know that getting children, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, into high-quality pre-K will help them achieve at higher levels and will lead to stronger schools and a better Indianapolis. We are proud to stand next to many great companies in insisting we do more to ensure that more children are ready—academically and socially—on day one when they enter kindergarten.
While high-quality early education is necessary, it cannot be the end of the story. We have to ensure that every child has access to a great school, regardless of their home ZIP code. Over the last five years, Lilly has committed more than $6 million in philanthropic donations to strengthen the educational landscape in Indy. We have advocated at every opportunity that the status quo is going to fail too many children.
What’s being done?
- The Mind Trust, our primary partner in this work, has been devoted to dramatically improving educational opportunities for all students. They utilize a network of talented people who are working to transform public education in Indianapolis, as well as develop bold plans to change the city's education system.
- The George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academy (PLA), a $1 million recipient of The Mind Trust’s Charter School Incubator funding, is just one impressive display of this work in action. PLA’s model is focused on giving students who are not thriving in a traditional educational model an opportunity in a different setting that incorporates technology. PLA’s results have been impressive, as illustrated by Founder and CEO Earl Martin Phalen.
- We are also excited about the future direction of our largest public school district – Indianapolis Public Schools. IPS, under the leadership of Dr. Lewis Ferebee, is taking some bold steps to transform the district. One example is a teacher-led turnaround program called T3, which is being implemented at three underperforming IPS schools. We have committed up to $1 million over the next four years to help IPS make this successful.
- IPS School #61 Clarence Farrington Elementary School, one of the T3 schools, has been one of the lowest performing schools in Indianapolis. Principal Carole Wilson believes T3 will provide teachers with more of a leadership role in turning around the school and making it a beacon of excellence in its Westside neighborhood.
We care about improving educational outcomes because this will be the best way to strengthen the city that is home to our corporate headquarters and largest R&D and manufacturing footprints. Among other things, a strong, vibrant community will help us recruit, retain and engage great talent from here and around the world.
We also care because it is the right thing to do. And, we also know that we don’t have time to waste. The forces of global competition are not going to abate. For kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to have a shot at a better life, they must graduate high school fully prepared to successfully pursue and persist in obtaining a college degree or an equally important technical degree or certification.
To make this a reality will require, among other things, much greater investments when children are younger—as their brains are developing—and an improved K-12 system.
We will do our part to make a positive difference, respectful of all voices in the debate, but firmly committed to what is in the best interest of kids. We must do this because, as one of my friends dryly says, “It’s only the future that is at stake.”