Opinion: Preserve Community-Based Preschool Programs

The following opinion was originally published in The Detroit News on May 21 (subscriber link).

By Kevin Stotts

For more than a decade, Michigan has stood out as one of the top states in the nation for providing quality preschool opportunities for at-risk children. However, as leadership in Lansing continues their back-and-forth budget negotiations, lawmakers are on the brink of making a decision that could profoundly affect countless families across our state.

TalentFirst President Kevin Stotts

The recent passage of the State School Aid budget by the House, with provisions cutting funding for community-based preschool programs, represents a significant step in the wrong direction.

The decision to eliminate funding requirements for community-based preschool programs undermines the progress we’ve made in expanding access to affordable, high-quality preschool. It also threatens to amplify existing inequalities and hinder economic mobility for struggling working families.

This budget proposal would remove the requirement for intermediate school districts to allocate 30% of funding toward community-based childcare providers to provide preschool programs.

The proposal also explicitly prohibits the use of Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) Classroom Start-Up grants for classrooms operated by community-based providers. According to the 2023 GSRP Legislative Report, 33.4% of all Great Start Readiness preschool slots are currently served by Community-Based Organizations statewide.

Additionally, the proposal eliminates the executive budget proposal that would provide the Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential (MiLEAP) the necessary flexibilities to implement the Preschool for All Roadmap for four-year-olds. This roadmap represents a comprehensive strategy to expand access to preschool and ensure every child can thrive.

Community-based preschool providers serve as lifelines for many families, offering accessible, grassroots solutions that meet their unique needs. Defunding these programs deprives children of a nurturing and supportive learning environment and disrupts the lives of working families who rely on preschool providers in their communities.

Now is not the time to backtrack on our commitment to early childhood development. It’s time to invest in Michigan’s future by continuing to include community-based preschool programs. We can help every child reach their full potential regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status.

Kevin Stotts is president of TalentFirst.

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