News and analysis from The Center for Michigan •
©2015 Bridge Michigan. All Rights Reserved. • Join us online at

Original article URL:

Talent & education

State adopts ‘nation’s largest’ expansion of early childhood funding

Ten thousand additional Michigan 4-year-olds will be in classrooms next school year, after Republican and Democratic legislators Wednesday passed the largest expansion in early childhood education in the nation.

(Bridge illustration/A.J. Jones)

(Bridge illustration/A.J. Jones)

The $65 million expansion for the 2013-14 budget year is a major victory for business leaders, educators and children advocates, as well as Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders who believed early childhood education offers a good return on investment. But the biggest winners will be Michigan’s low- and moderate-income children, who will now be able to enroll in a program proven to improve test scores and lower drop-out rates.

The victory comes a year to the day since the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan unveiled a coalition of 100 business leaders endorsing a vast expansion of the state’s Great Start Readiness Program that provides pre-K to 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.

That announcement was made at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Policy Conference last year. In September 2012, Bridge Magazine’s report, “Michigan’s forgotten 4-year-olds,” revealed that almost 30,000 preschoolers who qualified for free public pre-K education were locked out of classrooms because of insufficient funds, logistical hurdles and poor coordination of services. That report recently won a national award from the Education Writers Association.

Bridge’s coverage helped rally support for GSRP among legislative leaders such as Sen. Roger Kahn, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. Snyder endorsed the expansion in his State of the State address in January.

The expansion, passed by the House Tuesday and the Senate Wednesday, provides $40 million to enroll more children immediately, and another $25 million as the program gears up. Language in the bill calls for an additional $65 million expansion next year, though that additional money would have to be approved by the Legislature in 2014.

The expansion is designed to largely end the phenomenon of eligible but unenrolled 4-year-olds over the next two years.

The $65 million increase – a 60-percent bump over current funding – also is the biggest in the nation this year. “Michigan’s increase is way bigger” than those being considered in other states, said Margie Wallen, director of national policy at the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago. “You will be the absolute leader in this year’s increase in investment and increasing quality.”

 MORE COVERAGE: Michigan moves into national forefront of preschool funding

Sen. Roger Kahn

Sen. Roger Kahn

Michigan is once again being viewed as a leader in early childhood education. “I was at a(n education) conference in Washington recently, and people were marveling at what’s happening in Michigan,” said Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel. “They’re encouraged by the political dynamics.”

Those political dynamics – bipartisan support for expanded public-funded education – “gives me hope that there are more educational issues we can come together on,” said Livingston Educational Service Agency Superintendent Dave Campbell. “Both parties looked at the research and both parties agreed that this is a good investment. Money is tight, and we’re still expanding in an area that has the most impact.”

Key to the expansion for Menzel was an increase in the per-student allotment for next school year, from $3,400 to $3,625. Currently, some schools lose money with every GSRP student who walks in the door. “The per-slot increase is essential to high-quality programming,” Menzel explained.

“We’re really glad the Legislature has a made a budget decision rooted in evidence and geared to address the achievement gap,” said Mina Hong, senior policy associate for the advocacy group Michigan’s Children. “We know GSRP reduces the readiness gap in kindergarten and improves third-grade reading proficiency. And GSRP gets more people to graduation.”

In more than 600 community conversations about education reform held around the state by The Center for Michigan, residents listed expanded, high-quality pre-K as one of their highest priorities.

“Many people said the way to move the needle in our schools was through early childhood education,” said Phil Power, founder and chairman of The Center for Michigan. “The Center’s method is to nourish public attitudes and amplify them in the halls of power. And damned if it doesn’t work.”

Senior Writer Ron French joined Bridge in 2011 after having won more than 40 national and state journalism awards since he joined the Detroit News in 1995. French has a long track record of uncovering emerging issues and changing the public policy debate through his work. In 2006, he foretold the coming crisis in the auto industry in a special report detailing how worker health-care costs threatened to bankrupt General Motors.

6 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. Karen

    I’m curious as to the mandates on this 4 year old preschool. Is the intent that parents will be made aware of its availability but not required to send their 4 year olds to school? There is generic interest in this topic….and the research….and there is family-specific inquiry.

    1. Ron French

      There will be no mandate to send 4-year-olds to school; The funding means that more families who wish to send their children to pre-K can do so.

  2. Michelle R.

    It’s a great day for Michigan’s young children!

  3. Charles Richards

    Has anyone considered the possibility that it is not formal education or cognitive ability that is responsible for success, but character? Paul Tough, writing in the Sept 7, 2012, Wall Street Journal said the idea behind early education ” is an idea you might call the cognitive hypothesis. It is the belief, rarely spoken aloud but commonly held nonetheless, that success in the U.S. today depends more than anything else on cognitive skill—the kind of intelligence that gets measured on IQ tests—and that the best way to develop those skills is to practice them as much as possible, beginning as early as possible. ” He goes on to say, “But in the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate group of economists, educators, psychologists and neuroscientists has begun to produce evidence that calls into question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.
    What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years of life. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us often think of them as character.

  4. Cheryl

    In theory it is wonderful…what we have been waiting for. In reality, it isn’t all that impressive. Programs have been hit very hard with administrative fees now that we are under local ISD’s who take 5-7% of the grant money off the top. In addition we will now have to pay $3500 per classroom for an official PQA (Program Quality Assessment) …very very expensive, considering we have been trained and doing them on our own for years. To summarize programs will have to serve more children, and have less money to do the job well. We estimate that all these changes in GSRP is costing our small program $44,000. Not good news for us, bad news for the children. It is a sad situation.

  5. Genny Connors

    Praise the Lord! A great day it is! Character, as well as formal education, along with morals and values, are the keys to success, and it is a blessing to see the bi-partisan support for Michigan’s children come to fruition.

Leave your comment...

Your email address will not be published.

Currently on Bridge

Will we be better off if Proposal 1 passes? Former treasurer says yes

An Earth Day pitch: When you hang up the phone for good, toss it the right way

Michigan’s roads affect everyone, so a 'yes' vote on Proposal 1 makes sense

‘Diplomacy Begins Here’ conference aims to illuminate international relations

What NOT to post on Facebook: Jokes about prison rape, when you’re in charge of preventing prison rape

A program to give young offenders a second chance is sending many to prison

Similar accounts in suit over alleged teen prison rapes pose challenge to state's defense

‘New fish’ ‒ One teen inmate’s account of alleged sexual assault

Early learning summit in June could impact Michigan’s children

Money Smart Week: Be penny wise, and pound savvier

Plan B or no Plan B, here’s what happens if road proposal fails

The political tale behind the selling of Proposal 1

A Bridge primer: Untangling the pothole promise of Proposal 1

Who supports, and opposes, Proposal 1

Let's rebuild Michigan through its greatest asset: its water

Could a public boarding school model work in Detroit?

Coalition supporting Detroit schools a step in the city’s road back

Chasing fads? Today’s schools are struggling too much for that

For one Michigan legislative staffer, an hour or two in the spotlight

A cull is a kill, and it’s an overreaction to deer ‘problem’

Lack of college guidance keeps poor and rural students from applying

Those who can, do – and get their hands ‘dirty’ in the process

For one Detroit mom, a complicated path to employment

Detroit by the numbers – the truth about poverty

Michigan should require dental screening for all children entering kindergarten

Where in the world is the Center for Michigan?

After two years, hard to call ACA anything but a success

Bridge’s Academic State Champs emphasizes all the wrong measurements

A graying population poses challenges for Up North counties

Up North, isolation impedes health care for seniors

Enbridge oil pipes and the Straits of Mackinac: Too risky to ignore

Not bigger government, but better services when Community Health and Human Services merge

Two Michigans gaze across a widening gap

In northern counties, workers and business find each other lacking

Hidden poverty stalks a Pure Michigan setting

Postcard: How a git-’er-done spirit helps one rural school district

Postcard: When elk is for dinner

Postcard: Luxe life at Bay Harbor reflects changing economy

Postcard: A roof and a bed

Invest in non-partisan journalism.

Donate to The Center for Michigan. Find out why.