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.