On horizon for preschools: More public-private partnerships

MACKINAC ISLAND -- Legislators had barely made it to Mackinac Island after passing an historic increase in funding for early childhood education before discussion turned to what happens next.

A panel today predicted more public-private partnerships in pre-K for 4-year-olds and investment in brain development at even earlier ages could be on the horizon if Michigan continues to be a leader in early childhood education.

On Wednesday, Michigan’s Legislature passed a $65 million increase in preschool funding, the largest increase in the nation this year. That investment in the Great Start Readiness Program will allow at least 10,000 more low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds to attend high-quality, publicly funded preschool. Studies show that children who enroll in GSRP perform better academically throughout their K-12 careers, are held back less often and graduate at a higher clip.

Rob Grunewald, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota, said there is a $4 to $9 return on every dollar spent on high-quality preschool. The key, Grunewald said, is having high standards for teachers and following a research-based curriculum. GSRP requires certified teachers with additional early childhood certification, a higher standard than many other states that run pre-K programs.

Oklahoma has had a universal pre-K program since 1998 to address the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students. “If they start out (kindergarten) behind, they stay behind, and bad things start to happen,” said Bob Harbison, a former member of the board of directors of Smart Start Oklahoma.

MORE COVERAGE: Michigan moves into national forefront of preschool funding

Oklahoma now has 80 percent of its 4-year-olds enrolled voluntarily in state-funded preschool programs (70 percent for full day). Now, state leaders are turning their attention to helping children younger than age 4.

“Today we have 4 percent of our 3-year-olds in school programs, with no funding – the schools are just doing it,” Harbison said. Another $25 million is on its way for age 0-3 programming - $10 million from the state and $15 million from the private sector.

“We have 54,000 births a year and two-thirds are paid for by Medicaid,” Harbison said, meaning that over half of all children are living in low-income families. “We’ve got to focus more on birth to 3. And to do to that, we’ve got to have some kind of contact with the parents.”

“We cannot forget parents,” said Carla Thompson, vice president of program strategy at the Kellogg Foundation. “Children don’t live in silos. They live in families.”

The Kellogg Foundation is working to engage parents in early childhood education decisions, such as providing information about where high-quality preschool can be found in their communities.

Grunewald encouraged Michigan political and business leaders to work together to improve early childhood education. Michigan is encouraging the private sector to provide a larger share of GSRP classrooms (currently private providers enroll less than 10 percent of GSRP students). Business leaders in some states have programs to help new child care providers learn enough about business to keep the doors open, Grunewald said.

Grunewald praised Michigan’s 60-percent increase in preschool funding, and that Michigan should now focus on more public-private partnerships to fund programs for younger children.

Businesses are willing to pony up for programs like that because they see them as a good investment.

“The investment Michigan is making in early childhood education is going to have a long-term effect,” Thompson said.

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.


Fri, 05/31/2013 - 2:17pm
The Governor deserves credit for seeing the need and doing something about it. At the same time he needs to pay more attention to the EAA. Presently it appears the Educational Achievement Authority (EAA) is not under control and as Governor he has the responsibility to right the ship. The concept of the EAA per John Covington, Chancellor of the EAA is "to implement the education platform where we use time as the variable, learning is the constant...." is a good one. Someone once said "a good idea not implemented is worthless". Well, a good idea implemented poorly can be disastrous. This is what has happened with the EAA. The local newspapers recently reported several missteps at the EAA including their botching of applications for federal grants including the filing of false and inaccurate information. Further, serious people in the community are questioning the reported results by students attending EAA schools. These concerned citizens state that if the EAA provided false information to obtain federal grants how are they to believe the test scores being touted at these schools. The Nerd is doing some great things for Michigan; however, he needs to learn how to lead in a Democracy. He is no longer in the corporate world where when an order is issued everyone else better implement it without questioning the directive. I voted for Snyder and he has done much good for the state. In order for me to do that again he needs to begin believing in participatory democracy and take appropriate action. He should start by stepping up and giving an honest assessment of what went wrong at the EAA and how is he going to correct it.... http://lstrn.us/18ysxCC
John Q. Public
Sat, 06/01/2013 - 3:51pm
"Public-private partnership" is just a term invented to be politically palatable. Few people would be willing to publicly champion initiatives based on "Let's fire public employees, kill the programs they provided and funnel the tax revenues to our politically connected buddies to provide a watered-down, third-rate version of the same thing."
Ann O'Connell
Sun, 06/02/2013 - 9:21am
In my opinion the very best public-private partnerships in education would be the ones forged by families using tax-supported vouchers for child care and education to select the best licensed daycare/preschool/K-12 school for their family's needs. The public-school based pre-school programs all mean well, most do a good job at preparing average kids for average schools. The public programs offer a one-size-fits-all preschool experience, but one size does NOT fit all families.