Last week, the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan (CLCM) released their early childhood business plan at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. And though the CLCM didn’t explain how their business plan would be funded– whether from private investments or from targeted public revenue sources – a statement from business leaders calling for significantly increased investment in early childhood education for the betterment of Michigan’s future workforce is a big deal. So what exactly would an early childhood business plan mean for children and families in Michigan?
The CLCM is a group of business leaders from across Michigan who are committed to ensuring that all children arrive at school healthy and ready to learn. Since its founding, the CLCM has advocated for expanded resources so that all young children eligible for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) – the state’s preschool program for four-year-olds at-risk of school failure – can access the program. Currently, 38,000 four-year-olds eligible for GSRP aren’t able to access the program due to limited state funds.
Having business leaders call for fully funding GSRP is great news because we know that the program works. The GSRP program has proven outcomes. In addition to a high return on investment, high quality preschool programs like GSRP ensure that young children are ready for school, improve student achievement and ultimately contribute to higher high school graduation rates, all while narrowing the achievement gap.
BUT, four-year-old preschool alone is not enough. The other half of the CLCM’s platform is to strengthen efforts to assure the healthy growth of children from birth through age three. At Michigan’s Children, we know that laying strong foundations beginning at birth are essential to help young children prepare for school and to succeed in life. When cognitive disparities emerge as young as nine months of age and continue to grow throughout life, taking advantage of the first three years of life when the brain is rapidly developing is critical to prevent these large racial, ethnic, and economic-related disparities. And the business leaders who are part of the Leadership Council agree with this science.
Michigan’s Children continues to suggest that at least twenty percent of any new money for preschool be set-aside to serve infants, toddlers and their families. Whether these new funds are from public or private sources, dedicating a portion of new funding to serve children from birth through age three would truly realize the P-20 education continuum.
Michigan’s Children applauds the early childhood business plan and will continue to work with the Children’s Leadership Council towards their goals to expand preschool and birth through three services to prepare a strong and diverse workforce for the future. Growing preschool and birth through three programs concurrently will show the greatest gains in terms of healthy development, school readiness, and return on investment all while preventing and reducing the achievement gap and strengthening the workforce of tomorrow.
Learn more about Michigan’s Children’s early childhood priorities.