The State of Michigan has just passed its 2011-2012 budget. The Early Childhood Investment Corporation of Michigan has provided some news coverage of the implications of this budget for early childhood program.
As the article’s lead says, the budget is a “mixed bag”. On the one hand, the budget modestly expands funding for pre-k slots, even while many other educational programs have been cut. On the other hand, the budget cuts various child care subsidies. In addition, the cuts in K-12 funding may make it difficult for local school districts to provide a sufficient number and quality of pre-k slots despite the state support for funding more slots. Furthermore, Michigan is below the national average both in the percentage of four-year-olds in state funded pre-k slots, and in state funding per pre-k slot. The article provides more extensive quotations of my comments on these topics.
From a political standpoint, the budget is on balance a success for early childhood programs. These programs did better than might be expected given the state’s fiscal challenges and the state’s current political balance of power. But, from an economic standpoint, the budget is a disappointment. Greater long-run economic impact of early childhood programs requires significant expansion of slots in high-quality programs. The 2011-2012 Michigan budget does not significantly move the state forward in early childhood’s contribution to state economic development.
What are we aiming for in early childhood programs? I think we should be aiming for large-scale impact. This is the standard by which we should be judging success in budget battles: are we increasing the number of children with access to high-quality early childhood education by a sufficient amount to substantially affect overall economic and social outcomes?