Investing in early childhood education is an investment in Michigan’s future.
That was the message that came out of a panel discussion hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on Wednesday, May 30, during the 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference – a three-day conference held each year on Michigan’s historic Mackinac Island.
Sterling Speirn, Kellogg Foundation’s president and CEO, moderated the session that focused on presenting the business case for intensified preschool and other early childhood programs that will turn Michigan into a national leader for school readiness.
“At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we believe supporting children at an early age is critically important to creating conditions that prepare them for long-term success and independence,” Speirn said. “By investing in high-quality early childhood education and school readiness programs, we’re not only helping to lift up our most vulnerable children, but also boost Michigan’s economy by ensuring that we have an educated and skilled workforce that is ready to compete in the 21st century global economy.”
The panelists featured were business leaders Paul Hillegonds, senior vice president of corporate affairs at DTE Energy, and Chandra Moore, design principal at coG-studio, LLC, as well as Susan Broman, who came from the private sector and philanthropy to become the first director of the Michigan Office of Great Start.
Following Wednesday’s discussion, the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan announced that nearly 100 Michigan business leaders have thrown their support behind the Michigan Early Childhood Business Plan. The plan calls on state policymakers and local school officials to:
- Offer publicly funded preschool to all 4-year-olds who are eligible – Currently, Michigan has slots for only about half of the eligible 4-year olds. Approximately 38,000 4-year-olds are shut out of preschool every year.
- Strengthen efforts to assure the healthy growth of 0 to 3-year-olds – The first 1,000 days are critical to a child’s brain development. Right from birth, children must be raised by parents and other caregivers who have the supports they need to be their children’s first and best teachers. To this end, we support expansion of evidence-based programs for 0 to 3-year-olds and their families, particularly home visiting, for at-risk infants and toddlers.
“The goal of the council’s initiative is to encourage the State of Michigan to act with new commitment to ensure that all Michigan children arrive at school ready to succeed,” said Doug Luciani, co-chair of the Children’s Leadership Council for Michigan, and president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are calling on the State to offer publicly funded preschool to all 4-year-olds who are eligible and to strengthen efforts to assure the healthy growth of 0 to 3-year-olds.”