$65 Million Expansion of Pre-k in Michigan

More than 10,000 Michigan four-year-olds and their families will have the opportunity to participate in high-quality preschool next year thanks to a visionary expansion of the state’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP).

 
The Michigan House and Senate passed a $65 million expansion of the GSRP program last week after Gov. Rick Snyder proposed the expansion with his budget address last winter.
 
The legislation caps a year of intense, coordinated work by early childhood advocates and the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, a network of more than 110 statewide business executives organized in support of early childhood program expansion.
 
Features of the GSRP program expansion include:

  • A second planned $65 million expansion again in 2014-15 aimed at largely ending what the Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine has called the “Forgotten 30,000” four year olds who are eligible but un-enrolled due to lack of spots.
  • A per-student appropriation increase from $3,400 to $3,625 to reduce local schools’ underwriting of the program and to encourage rapid expansion on the part of the local school districts.
  • Increased blending of state GSRP and federal HeadStart programming for the lowest income students.
  • Increased ability for private and nonprofit preschool providers to take part in the program.
  • Increased investment in transportation and marketing/outreach funds to help reach the toughest to reach families and children.
  • Ongoing longitudinal evaluation to demonstrate the long-term effects of GSRP on student achievement.

 
The movement benefitted from intense advocacy in what turned out to be the right policy at the right time driven by the right policymakers. The Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine built on years of state and national research to publish its award-winning “Forgotten Four Year Olds” report nearly a year ago. The Children’s Leadership Council and other advocacy groups, including Michigan’s Children, Fight Crime Invest in Kids, the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, HighScope, and the Kent County First Steps Commission among others began working with state leaders months before the release of budget proposals to build the case for expansion this year. Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Kahn, a longtime advocate for children’s issues, signaled early support by stating from the outset that early childhood expansion was one of his top legislative priorities for the year. Other legislative champions included House Appropriations Chairman Joe Haveman and Representatives Bill Rogers and Amanda Price, as well as House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.
 
Now, advocates and educators look forward to the challenges of rapid expansion of the pre-school program while also beginning to think through future strategies to assure 0-3 year olds are healthy and best prepared to engage in learning.

John Bebow, President, The Center for Michigan / Bridge Magazine (June 10, 2013)