Group wants surpluses spent on children

The Children's Leadership Council of Michigan, a collection of business, nonprofit and educational groups, has some advice for the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder on using the projected surpluses from the 2011 fiscal year: Spend it on the kids.

In a new letter (see full draft below), the group argues, "Viewing them as investment strategies, we place high priority on the education and care of young children. The sooner and earlier we are able to embark on expanded state investments, the better."

Among the signers were Phil Power (president of Bridge's parent, the Center for Michigan) and Paul Hillegonds of DTE Energy.

Text of Children's Leadership Council letter

Members of the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan are heartened by early projections of surpluses (several hundred million dollars each) in the state government’s general fund and school aid fund in the fiscal year ending September 30. Policy-makers have many choices in the use of these surpluses, including reducing debt and/or investing in state services.

To the extent that surpluses are tapped to increase funding of state services, investing in the full continuum of learning is a businesslike strategy for Michigan. We are organized to advance the mission of, and attention to, early childhood. As business leaders, we testify to the highest rates of return on investment in funds spent on the education and care of children before they reach kindergarten. While we understand that returns on educational investment may decline as children progress through schools, we support increased state funding for the entire continuum of learning.

We are deeply committed to the goal of providing every eligible family the opportunity to enroll their children in publicly funded, high-quality child care (the Great Start Readiness Program). Today, the families of more than 38,000 eligible children cannot do so because of a shortage in state funds. We trust that the new Office of Great Start will both make sense of and promote greater use of the more than 80 funding streams now supporting early childhood programs and services. Savings and reinvestment through efficiency and new state dollars can and should be used to reach the forgotten 38,000.

We understand fully the many competing demands for whatever surplus dollars are found in the fiscal year just ended. Viewing them as investment strategies, we place high priority on the education and care of young children. The sooner and earlier we are able to embark on expanded state investments, the better.

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