Spend a little on kids now, save a lot later

Call it common sense, call it common knowledge, but now it has a number attached: $40,000. Or $100,000.

The first number is the amount the state of Michigan saves on every child who arrives at kindergarten "ready to learn," that is, with an adequate preschool or similar early-childhood experience. The six-figure sum is what the city of Detroit saves. (The difference is due to "lifetime cost differences in education, social service and criminal justice expenditures" in Detroit, the study says.)

So claim the authors of a study done at the behest of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, conducted by St. Paul, Minn.-based Wilder Research. The foundation is using those numbers to give dimension to calls for more preschool and early-childhood funding in Michigan schools. It estimates a $55.3 million savings for every 1 percent gain in school readiness statewide, and a $7.2 million savings for Detroit. A 1 percent gain in school readiness among Detroit’s estimated 7,200 kindergarteners would save $7.2 million.

"People have heard (the advantages of early-childhood education) so often, they don't listen anymore," said Richard Chase, lead researcher on the project. "This study makes it simple. We're calling it the school readiness dividend."

Gov. Rick Snyder has made early childhood a priority, establishing the Office of Great Start last year, and adding third-grade reading proficiency to his "dashboard" of success measures in the state.

“Recognizing education starts at birth, investing in birth to 5-year-old children at risk is a first step to ensure they hit the kindergarten door ready to learn. This is critical to meet the demands of Michigan’s future economy” said Phillip Fisher, vice chair of the foundation board, via a press release.

Children who have been exposed to early-childhood enrichment programs, particularly at-risk low-income children, arrive at school better prepared for early success, which carries through their critical elementary years. Advocates see it as a critical area for preparing the future work force for the increased intellectual demands of the new economy.

Chase acknowledges the benefits of having children learn simple educational concepts before they begin their formal education is nothing new, but "now we have a clear metric," he said. "Now we have a dollar figure."

Staff Writer Nancy Nall Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in Metro Detroit for seven years, and was a co-founder and editor of GrossePointeToday.com, an early experiment in hyperlocal journalism. Before that, she worked for 20 years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she won numerous state and national awards for her work as a columnist for The News-Sentinel.

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Tue, 05/01/2012 - 11:57am
Yes, nice. There are a number of studies that show the benefits of early child hood education. But to get those savings, there needs to be an upfront investement. And right now, the Legislature an the Governor's office is hellbent on giving more and more tax breaks to businesses. So there will be no money for that up front investment. The state has cut revenue sharing to local governments over the past decade to deal with budget issues. But it is a con by the Republicans in the Legislature. They can still campaign on not raising your taxes, but their actions leave cities in a lurch. So when you face those milage requests for this or that, remember, the Legislature is forcing you to vote for more taxes for essential services such as police and fire protection so they don't have to. So do we really expect them to invest in something that makes as much sense as early child hood education?
Tue, 05/01/2012 - 10:05pm
“Recognizing education starts at birth, investing in birth to 5-year-old children at risk is a first step to ensure they hit the kindergarten door ready to learn. This is critical to meet the demands of Michigan’s future economy” said Phillip Fisher, vice chair of the foundation board, I am surprise that Mr. Fisher doesn;t want to remove the new borns from their parents for 4 hours a day or more to give the kids that education. By the report findings that would seem to be the answer, forget the parents impact, for get the peers impact, forget the impact of life around them, forget about what interests the kids at each stage of their life. This report proves that start from the womb edcuating the kids and the overwhelming majority will grow into college graduates (at least in the current system we have). I wonder how we got any kids through school and even through college before cradle to 12 education. How it happened that parents who never completed K-12 ever had kids that graduated college. HOw we ever had kids growing up in the government projects, on the farms, in urban areas to no rich parents went on to college even farther/ I surely don't underestimate the value of kids being in a learning environment from day one, but I would offer is has more to do with the understading by the parents of their roles than it is delegating it to a governement run educator (who may have totally different values). Rather then edcuating as Mr Fisher may see it could it be simply about establishing expectations, responsiiibilities, and respect. The justification of this was the cost saings for Detroit, either Detroit changes or it disappears and the cost savins have no impact.