We Must Fix Legislation Threatening Pre-K Roadmap

A lot of hard work was finally showing progress toward expanding access to high-quality preschool education and addressing the state’s child care crisis. New legislation could throw that effort away.

On April 25, the state House Appropriations Subcommittee on School Aid and Education released a budget proposal containing language that will make it harder for working families to access affordable, flexible, high-quality preschool education.

In effect, the legislation discards a roadmap developed over the past year in partnership with families, intermediate school districts, educators and providers, and businesses from across the state. Worse, it would be devastating to working families and their children, as well as the state’s employers and our economy.

As an organization that for more than a decade has promoted strategies to improve early childhood development, TalentFirst is joining with other stakeholders to urge lawmakers to reverse course and fix this legislation.

The wrong direction

The legislation’s biggest flaw is elimination of the requirement for intermediate school districts to partner with community-based childcare providers to provide prekindergarten programs to Michigan families through the Great Start Readiness Program. This requirement has been in place for well over a decade.

What’s more, the proposed budget explicitly prohibits funding required for Pre-K expansion and new classrooms from going to community-based providers. It dedicates the funding exclusively to school-based classrooms.

The proposal is harmful for several reasons.

First, community-based GSRP classrooms are critical components of our state’s early care and preschool network. Parents often choose them over school-based options for quality and long-standing presence within their communities. These programs also provide flexibility, including year-round, before- and after-school options. This is critical for parents to maintain full-time employment and support their families. Additionally, many CBOs offer culturally responsive early care and education.

Second, the legislation would eliminate a key component of the budget originally proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which would have provided the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential (MiLEAP) the necessary flexibility to lead expansion of preschool for Michigan 4-year-olds.

These plans were detailed in the Roadmap for Implementing PreK for All, released in January after months of listening sessions with child care providers, families and businesses. Legislators would do well to follow that example if they want to avoid making the same mistake as other states that inadvertently decimated their early care and education systems as they implemented Pre-K for All.

Meeting needs of families and employers

Lawmakers need to recognize and value the role community-based organizations play in serving the needs of children and working families.

The budget recommendations will worsen access to affordable, high-quality care and Pre-K, especially for Michigan’s struggling working families, particularly families of color. Excluding nonprofit, Head Start, and childcare providers from Michigan’s GSRP Pre-K program will harm small businesses and organizations, often led by women, especially women of color.

As an alliance of CEOs working to make West Michigan a leader in world-class talent, TalentFirst has long emphasized the need for quality early child care and preschool education. We have led advances that allow more parents to work to support their families and ensure more kids are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten.

We can’t afford to go backward now. We must protect the requirement to allocate GSRP slots to community-based organizations.

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