Michigan's education budget for the next fiscal year includes a major increase in funding for state-funded pre-school.
Bridge Magazine reports that the increase in Michigan will be the largest in the nation for early childhood education. W.E. Upjohn Institute Economist Tim Bartik has extensively studied early childhood education. He has written a book on the positive economic benefits of quality preschool and continues to blog about the subject. Bartik also discussed the idea at a TED Conference at Miami University last September.
Bartik told WMUK's Gordon Evans that the increase in funding for the state's Great Start Readiness Program is a big advance for the state because it will increase the number of slots available in state funded programs. He says an increase in funding will also improve quality. Bartik says Michigan still lags behind other states in the percentage of children in pre-school programs. But he says that gap can only be closed over many years.
On his blog Bartik recently wrote that Michigan is still falling short in per-student funding for its pre-school programs. He says local communities will have to subsidize their programs. Bartik says studies have shown Michigan's program is effective. He says that quality had been threatened in recent years because funding had not kept pace with inflation.
Bartik is a member of KC Ready 4s. The group is trying to ensure access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education throughout Kalamazoo County. Bartik says the state increase won't have a direct effect on KC Ready 4s. But he says Kalamazoo County is better-positioned to use state funds.
The state Legislature's budget increase is targeted at lower-income children. Bartik says there could be some unintended consequences of those efforts. He says the best programs have a mix of children from different backgrounds. Bartik says there could also be some administrative issues in determining qualifications for various programs.
Bartik says early childhood education is an issue that business leaders now see as an important part of workforce development and other economic issues. There is also support from people of different ideologies. Bartik says it's not completely outside of partisan politics. But he says conservative states such as Oklahoma, Georgia and West Virginia have some of the largest percentages of children in state-funded pre-school programs.