Business leaders applaud Gov. Snyder’s call for renewed early childhood investment

At this time last year, Governor Rick Snyder announced his commitment to expanding Michigan’s high-quality public preschool, the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). The Michigan Legislature and the governor delivered on that commitment with a new $65 million investment in GSRP. That investment is making a difference in the lives of children and families, as Michigan’s Office of Great Start worked with the state’s intermediate school districts to enroll more four-year-olds than ever in GSRP this fall and winter. This tremendous growth has made Michigan a national model for growth in early learning opportunities for vulnerable children and families.

As the governor acknowledged in 2013, this new funding went only halfway to addressing the unmet need—four-year-olds eligible for but unenrolled in GSRP. With last Thursday’s State of the State, he announced his intention to make sure that parents of all eligible four-year-olds have the opportunity to enroll in our state’s exemplary pre-kindergarten program.

In his speech, Governor Snyder noted that Michigan’s expanded preschool investment in the current fiscal year was the largest in the nation. To complement this initial investment, the governor stated that he would recommend an additional $65 million for GSRP in his FY15 executive budget. His aim is “to make Michigan a no-wait state for early childhood education.”

We are grateful to the governor for this continued commitment. We applaud his understanding that need remains and that investment in this initiative is essential to cultivating the healthy development and talent of our future workforce.

More than 120 statewide business executives have worked through the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, which we co-chair, to call attention to the urgent and crucial need for wise investment in preschool and early learning in Michigan. Business voices across our state are pushing for comprehensive early childhood strategies because early childhood is the best way to give at-risk children a fighting chance to ascend the steep path to success in today’s global economy.

Given Governor Snyder’s forceful State of the State, we anticipate that he will bolster his signature commitment to early childhood with the state budget proposal he will unveil in early February. We are eager to see the governor’s response in his budget. We think early childhood is one of the very best investments this jobs-focused governor can make in our great state.


More than half of Michigan’s fourth graders are not proficient readers. Solving this problem is the governor’s top goal for elementary education. You can’t get there without expanding high-quality preschool programs. Research shows big gains in reading and math proficiency for at-risk students who attend the state’s Great Start Readiness (GSRP) preschool program.

GSRP works, according to the High Scope Educational Research Foundation’s comprehensive longitudinal evaluation. GSRP results in better kindergarten readiness, fewer grade repetitions, better reading and math proficiency, and higher high school graduation rates. That’s what High Scope evaluators found after following a large sample of Michigan students in six cities for their whole school careers.

As columnist David Brooks puts it, “By age 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.”

Governor Snyder gets this—and he has shown that he has and will continue to do something about it. That’s vision and power. It truly changes lives for the better.

Doug Luciani is president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Debbie Dingell is president of d2 Strategies. Together, they co-chair the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, a statewide business coalition that advocates for investment in early childhood education.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission.

If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Monica WilliamsClick here for details and submission guidelines.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Sun, 01/19/2014 - 7:14am
For 50 years we've known about High Scope in Ypsilanti and for 40 years about a similar project from Chapel Hill, NC. Early education is very very cost effective.The January 20th issue of Bloomberg-Businessweek has yet another article on it. In this article they estimate that preschool investments have an annual return of 7% to 10%. For 50 years we've had documentation that it works. Wanna bet that we still won't do it?
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:45pm
Hi Jim, I have to disagree with you. But since I probably do not disagree with everything with you, I will try to be very specific. I looked up your Jan 20th citation and found the article, 'The Heckman Equation: Early Childhood Education Benefits All' By Brendan Greeley January 16, 2014. Brendan freely quotes, Heckman, who is an Economist from the University of Chicago, his paper says 'The free instruction cost $17,759 per child per year in 2006 dollars.' So that would be the cost for just one year with the students at 4 years of age. Heckman touts his 2010 paper as 'the first rigorous cost-benefit study” of the Ypsilanti program. His stated aim to find what he calls the “return to society” from this investment. His conclusion says the return is 50 to 300 times the investment. So he says it is a good investment. I did a quick calculation and 300 times $17,759 comes out to $5 million dollars. I don't think so! He seems to have totally ignored any other educational benefit of money spent on each child's education, such as K-12. I think his numbers are so grossly exaggerated as to have no validity, and so are the annual return numbers you state. In fact several studies I have read say, any gains from preschool education tend to disappear in the first few years of public education. In the case of my son, we sent him to preschool in Florida at age three and half. Before Kindergarten he was flying. But by grade 4 his Reading was 1 year 6 months. He had been in Remedial Education for 2 years. Fortunately, my wife and I had him tutored, and he was up to Grade 9 level in 9 months. I credit the tutoring with his gains, not Preschool and not Public Education at all. We wound up pulling him from public school and home schooling. I think your faith in Heckman's paper and his Equation is misguided. One more thing. The main article here makes it very clear that students who can not read by Grade 4 are at risk and at least 50% of students are not able to read by Grade 4 in Michigan. So here again your faith in public education, pre or K-4 in Michigan is suspect as far as I am concerned. You sound more like someone that has a financial reason to be promoting the funding of such education in Michigan. Your remark at the end, 'Wanna bet that we still won’t do it?' seems detached. Michigan spent $65 Million on this last year, and plans the same this year. The articles talk about $250 million at the Federal level and $400 million by states. So, I will close with this, 'Wanna bet that 50% of fourth graders will still not be able to read next year, or after the investment you seek?' I refer you to the book 'Why Johnny Can't Read' by Herman Flesch from 1957 and 'Why Johnny Still Can Not Read' from 25 years later. This is not a new problem. I have asked about 500 people, including students if they have ever had a course on how to study? How many do you think said they did? If we don't teach students how to study, how to learn things, how to think for themselves, or ever expect them to do for themselves, what are the chances students will learn to read in first grade, or fourth grade and be successful?
Charles Richards
Tue, 01/21/2014 - 3:20pm
I'm afraid that Jim is not being very careful in his analysis. The Perry study done in Ypsilanti isn't comparable to Michigan's Great Start Readiness Program. The Perry study spent over $17,000 per child per year; Michigan's program spends about $4,000 per student per year. The Perry study involved two or three visits by social workers to children's homes every week. Great Start does not. The Perry effort invested a lot of money and intense intervention in a few extremely disadvantaged, dysfunctional families; Great Start does not. It is the eternal dilemma: make a significant, worthwhile difference in the lives of a few, or have a modest effect on the lives of large numbers of kids. Either choice - or anywhere in between - is acceptable, but we should not delude ourselves about the choice we have made. We are not getting the return on investment from spending a little money on each of a large number of kids that we would by spending a lot of money on each kid.
Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:26pm
Charles, The problem is that they are systems driven and not impact/results driven. They are interest in proving the process before they understand how to achieve the results. The look at educational scemes rather than at value. They look for ideas that can be presented rather then at who is the point of the process. My test for this is how they never seem to talk about learning from the students standpoint. They never seem to try to describe the learning process for the student and identify how or where what they are doing fits into that process. They seem to be looking at the education process from the adminstrators persepective (that where the money comes from) and talks about how to affect that process.
Sun, 01/19/2014 - 7:38am
Jim That reminds me of a favorite quote of an old Marine I worked with. When all is said and done more is said than done. Dale Westrick
Sun, 01/19/2014 - 8:28pm
Doug Luciani and Debbie Dingell have helped me better understand why unemployment is so high in Michigan. The businesses they speak for seem to forgo any business experience to get on the political bandwagon of adding new programs on to a failing system. I wonder if Mr. Luciani or Ms. Dingell ever asked the 120 businesses how they would address education in Michigan if that were their business. Or did they simply play the politics card and say ignore how your business works to live in the politics Lansing, ’go along to get along’. I wonder if the leaders of successful Michigan businesses would simply throw millions of their company‘s dollars ($65million) at any program and not establish metrics to hold the program and administrators accountable. Ms. Dingell and Mr. Luciani are willing to. Ms. Dingell and Mr. Luciani article and others (Gov. Snyder) that support preschool training seem to ignore the impact of the current K-12 system and imply that preschool training will succeed in spite of K-12. That seems to be classic Michigan politics (never question when it comes to spending other people's money) and not business sense (track and justify each dollar spent).
Mon, 01/20/2014 - 9:50pm
Content is currently unavailable. Have to wait to watch and offer any thoughts it may yield.
Tue, 01/21/2014 - 10:05pm
dale, I got to the CSPAN broadcast, with the first 20 minutes of introduction and than the committee members speeches I simply randomly watch parts of the rest. I appreciate the ideas that were presented, but for hearings they talk from too lofty a level with their celebrations of STEM and such. There is a more personal everyday ways to look at STEM, first it starts with practical experiences for the kids to relate STEM to there everyday, second it is to profide a face to STEM (people that are practicing it everday in their work), next they need it intergrated into each of their classes, and they need to have them expect to make STEM part of their lives/livelihoods. A couple of examples have working professionals come to classes regularly and talk about STEM in the everyday, a packaging engineer showing them how STEM is applied in everything they buy. Another is to consider computer languages equivalent to foreign languages and start it as a longuage class when other language classes are offered (why not have immersion in computer languages like there are immersions in Spanish?). Each time a professional comes to class have they describe to the class how each of them can become a STEM based professional. Help the kids begin to see themselves succeeded with STEM. Right now we hear too much of how science and math are hard, or people avoid them by saying it takes special abilities. As best I can tell the majority if not an vast majoirty of students could become professionals in the science and math fields.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 01/23/2014 - 5:08pm
I like your thinking. I'm a Professional Engineer and I am doing such things at a local school right now. I worked with five students in a Robotics Class and they won their Regional's last fall. I put together a little one hour course, and the teacher and I decided to call it an 'Applying Knowledge Workshop.' One boy that completed it said he was going to put it on his resume. I put a lot real life experiences on big important programs into my examples so the kids can dream a little. One boy asked a lot of questions about how things are done out the world, so I asked his teacher if we could do a second day. He couldn't believe this student took longer than the others. This student was possibly the smartest kid in school and the teacher knew it but I did not. But what I did know was that he was reaching for ways to apply knowledge in the real world and was not afraid to ask questions. I give the kids some information on how to study and then give them a practical example of how I used it in the real world. I teach them how to easily and quickly demonstrate things with physical objects, then I have them demonstrate how they might use each of the study ideas as we go along. I have been in the Military, Aerospace, Space and Environmental industries so I have a lot of practical experiences.
Thu, 01/23/2014 - 8:53pm
Leon, I think your work is very effective since it helps the kids on two levels, it put science into their hands giving the a feel of science and it helps them see how science fits into the real world, how it can be applied. I would like to see science professional be include in a program where they can present real occupational examples of careers in science. I had th eopportunity to talk with a couple of successful high school students who begining to look at colleges and degree programs. They had now idea what types of careers there were in the sciences and they felt they couldn't succeed in the college level programs. My concern is preception of science based degrees is only for the exceptionally smart, those that don't have to do homework to succeed in school. Too many see the sciences as too much text book and not enough practicality/functionality. That why I am so appreciative of how you are working with the kids. I would also like to see kids better understand that the science degrees are as much as if not more about persistence and work as it is about IQ.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Mon, 01/27/2014 - 6:20pm
Duane, I second the persistence and work idea. I don't think that is taught well at this time. I had one student that gave feedback to his Robotics teacher that he thought my Workshop was...'too theoretical.' I had to scratch my head on that one as all the ideas are totally practical from the viewpoint of what one does in industry. When I figured it out, what he meant was that no teacher had ever asked him or would be likely to ask students to do the things I said, like demonstrating with physical objects how one applies an idea one is learning. They just do not think in terms of what it takes for people to do things, and to be highly effective in the real world. He did say, he planned to put the training on his resume. I thought that was astute, and would catch the eye of any hiring manager.
Leon L. Hulett, PE
Thu, 01/23/2014 - 6:01pm
Dale, thanks for the link. It was very interesting. One representative, from Texas, pointed out America is 26th in the world in Science. Math is about the same. They mentioned they are spending 3 billion on STEM education. They didn't mention how much DARPA was spending. The FIRST robotics guy pointed out he was not there asking for anything. He has thousands of private industry sponsors and 240,000 mentors working with the kids. He wanted to emphasize the government should figure out a way to work with private industries, like his to make his example work for the millions of Americans who do not have access to his stuff. When I worked for Rolls Royce in Indianapolis I talked to mentors from FIRST and a Female Engineers group doing mentoring of school kids. They fund 9 Robotics Teams in the FIRST Competition. The mentors I talked with pointed out tactfully that the kids were not very engaged, and not well prepared to participate in such a technological program. They did get very enthused, but knew little of what to do. I gathered that the mentors might not be so well prepared to help kids at this level of technology, or lack of technology, as one would hope. I resolved to do something about that if possible, but after presenting to all the mentors well before they started their kids on the competition, I found little enthusiasm from them for resolving the obvious problem. The students lacked much real know-how or preparation for such work. They might get some inspiration, but when do they get to learn to do things? There should be more honest feedback from such mentors to the educational process.