Bolger backs bigger dollars for early childhood

House Speaker Jase Bolger, freshly elected to a second term to head Michigan’s House of Representatives, added his voice Wednesday to a growing coalition of political leaders in favor of increased state spending on early childhood education.

“We should expand early childhood education opportunities as investments to help kids succeed. Those investments also will provide savings to our schools and communities years later as those students learn -- and a decade later as they find success through working and don't enter our criminal justice system,” Bolger said in the House chamber.

The speaker’s words were quickly lauded by the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, a coalition of business, education and nonprofit leaders who have lobbied hard to increase investment in Michigan’s youngest.

“We are also grateful that you see that high-quality early childhood initiatives produce long-term benefits for our economy. It is the foundation for creating the talent necessary to propel our economy and our enterprises,” stated a letter issued by the CLC late Wednesday. (Editor’s note: The Center for Michigan, Bridge Magazine’s parent, is a member of the CLC of Michigan.) 

Last fall, responding to extensive coverage in Bridge of Michigan’s early childhood program, Sen. Roger Kahn, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called for an additional $140 million in early childhood spending for the state’s 2013-14 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, 2013.

Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, so Bolger’s and Kahn’s views are strong indicators of where the legislative debate will head on early childhood spending in 2013.

In September, Bridge Magazine wrote a multi-part series – “Michigan’s Forgotten 4-year-olds” -- revealing how 30,000 Michigan children who qualify for state-funded preschool were not in classrooms because of inadequate funding, logistical hurdles and poor coordination of services. Studies show that children who attend pre-K as 4-year-olds have more academic success in school, drop out less often and earn more money over their lifetimes.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is now preparing its 2013-14 budget proposal for the Legislature. Traditionally, the governor outlines major budgetary themes in the State of the State address, which will be delivered on Jan. 16 15 at the State Capitol.

Look for continuing coverage of the early childhood funding issue at next week.

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