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Early Learning Indiana Awarded $15 Million Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Renewed support will advance initiatives focused on improving access to high-quality early learning programs in Indiana

Early Learning Indiana has been awarded a $15 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to further the nonprofit organization’s efforts to increase access to high-quality early childhood education opportunities across the state.

A child’s experiences from birth to age five can have a profound effect on success later in life – from social and emotional intelligence to health to employment. Crucial brain development occurs during those early, active years that can provide a foundation for success in school and beyond, while also creating a positive ripple effect that extends to their families, communities and the economy.

Notwithstanding this well-documented return on investment, lack of access continues to prevent many Hoosier children from receiving the benefits of an enriching early learning experience. Systemic barriers limit high-quality early childhood education capacity and much of the capacity that exists is unaffordable for many families.

This new three-year grant will help Early Learning Indiana to address key issues underpinning the state’s early childhood education system. Efforts will include supporting the growth and sustainability of high-quality programs; expanding and deepening participation in the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system; strengthening the early learning workforce through innovative models and partnerships; and creating shared services aimed at reducing persistent structural challenges.

Early Learning Indiana has received $13 million of the grant. To encourage other funders to support these efforts, Lilly Endowment is making an additional $2 million in matching funds available to Early Learning Indiana based on new or increased contributions it receives through October 31, 2021.

“There is a need for more high-quality early learning programs in Indiana,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “Early Learning Indiana is playing an important role in addressing this need by helping ensure that more children are enrolled in high-quality programs throughout the state.”

With help from a 2014 Lilly Endowment grant, Early Learning Indiana undertook activities to boost the quality of and access to early learning opportunities for Hoosier families. Across the state, 335 early childhood programs improved their quality, and more than 3,000 new high-quality seats were created through initiatives such as the Child Care Deserts Competition, which focused on addressing areas of critical care shortage in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. Additionally, 400 early childhood educators earned new degrees or credentials. Through a variety of in-person and digital efforts, thousands of families became more involved in their children’s education.

“We are incredibly grateful for this renewed support from Lilly Endowment,” said President and CEO Maureen Weber. “This investment in high-quality early childhood education for Hoosier children and families will allow us to advance promising practices and spur innovative thinking to tackle workforce challenges and other systemic barriers that persist in the field.”

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