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Opinion | School leaders to Whitmer: invest in early childhood education now

Kindergarten classroom

Beginning this week and over the next several months, the governor and Legislature will build our state budget for next fiscal year. The state budget represents the priorities for our state. It is our belief one of these priorities must include additional investment in the state’s premier early childhood program — the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP).

Last year, Governor Whitmer’s executive budget recommendation sought to increase funding for GSRP. Like a lot of things, it was put on hold due to the pandemic.

GSRP serves more than 32,000 three- to four-year olds across the state of Michigan. Its significant footprint is a result of our state making a sizable investment several years ago. That was the right move at the time and put Michigan on the map as a national leader in early childhood education. So why is this additional investment necessary?

Decades of research on early childhood programs is clear: students who participate in these programs perform significantly better throughout their educational career and life. They have higher academic achievement, are more likely to pursue post-secondary education and ultimately have greater lifetime earnings. The benefits are especially true for those in our most marginalized communities. Simply put, it’s tough to find a better return on investment for our citizens and state.

Continued progress requires continued investment and support. Since 2014, the funding per child has remained flat — well below inflation. We have reached a breaking point where the program is strained and the incredible results are in jeopardy. Additional investment will allow us to adequately support our certified educators and attract highly qualified individuals into our classrooms. With a modest investment, our youngest learners will continue to thrive.

Currently, the gap between GSRP and kindergarten is more than $850 per child. We can do better. As a first step, our diverse coalition is calling for equal funding for a full-day GSRP experience to match what the state pays for a kindergartener. This small step will be of tremendous benefit for these students. Our youngest learners deserve no less.

 Coalition for the Great Start Readiness Program: Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Elementary Middle School Principals Association, Michigan Association of Administrators of Special Education, Michigan’s Children, MI Head Start Association, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Talent 2025, Kent ISD, Muskegon Area ISD, Ottawa Area ISD, Clare-Gladwin RESD, Traverse Bay Area ISD, Genesee ISD, Saginaw ISD, Clinton County RESA, Washtenaw ISD, Van Buren ISD, Lewis Cass ISD, Tuscola ISD, Midland County ESA, Allegan Area ESA, Ionia ISD, Gratiot-Isabella RESD, Ingham ISD, St. Joe ISD, Shiawassee RESD, Newaygo RESA, Kalamazoo RESA, Livingston ISD, Huron ISD, Montcalm ISD, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative.


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