Timothy J. Bartik
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Diversity Specialist
All fifty-four Great Start Collaboratives in Michigan have developed a three year strategic plan. Do you know what one of the most frequently mentioned needs is? You would probably think it is connection to health care or preschool, or parenting education for the most vulnerable families. Yes, these are needs across the state, but actually one of the most frequently mentioned needs is much more simplistic than that. It is connecting parents with already existing early childhood programs and services.
I have a special place in my heart for rural communities. You see, I grew up in a very rural area in Huron County. For those of you not from Michigan, it is often referred to as the "thumb". Much of my immediate family continues to live in Huron County where the wind/dust storms rival the Sahara! I graduated from a small high school with only 28 kids in my class, yes, that is right, 28!
This week, a great shift happened in politics. Republicans won many seats both in Michigan and nationally. There is a lot of conversation focusing on the issues of smaller government, less spending, the national deficit, and creating jobs. Frankly some of the extremism has been alarming. I assume that underneath citizen's anger is real hope that change will occur that will positively impact their family and community.
One of my favorite all time movies is The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. Not only do I really like Michael Douglas, but the way he plays the role of the president is extraordinary. One of the best lines in the movie is a somewhat angry exchange between President Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) and one of his staff, Lewis Rothschild (played by Michael J. Scott). When Lewis questions the president's leadership the dialogue goes something like this:
This past year has been nothing less than amazing when it comes to early childhood. Not only is there great work happening at both the state and local levels to build functioning early childhood systems, but parents and other community members have really stepped up in the election process.
We all know that a lot of change is coming to Michigan. A new Governor, new State Department leaders, and an almost brand new Legislature. In response to this looming reality, ECIC has asked communities to step up and make their voices heard.
I had the opportunity this week to meet with a small group of Intermediate School District Superintendents. The purpose of our meeting was to touch base in a somewhat informal way to surface issues and concerns as well as share information to move toward a closer partnership. The Intermediate School Districts serve as the fiduciary for the Great Start Collaborative and Parent Coalition funding, so it is essential that we openly communicate and create mutual understanding of the work we are facilitating at the state and local levels.
Any of you who know ECIC and Great Start should know it is all about change. Change to improve systems to better serve families, change in organizational policies and procedures to ensure coordination and access, and change in thinking to prioritize early childhood.
I am a parent of two young boys, ages 7 and 4, and they have been in child care for all of their lives. Our family has used the same child care center for almost 7 years benefiting from the full time care and preschool most of that time. The child care staff are like our second family in many ways.
My boys have benefited from this high quality setting. Both are doing well not only academically, but in their social and emotional health as well. Part of this comes from the staff who love my boys as much as my husband and I do.
Typically the fall represents endings; the end of summer and all the fun that it brings, the end of vacations, and the end of free time for children who are returning back to classroom. The fall is also a begining. Like the spring, the fall is a time for beginning again, for planting seeds, tending them, and watching them grow. In this way, it is a time of opportunity, like the springtime.
Running an organization well consists of many tasks that are often not in the limelight. These tasks may consist of reviewing budgets, reports, drafting contracts and policies, and doing the day to day work that ensures that questions are answered, e-mails are responded to, and activities are well organized.
In every organization, there are people who fill these roles that often do not receive the recognition they deserve. Without these people, organizations may fall apart due to disorganization and credibility is lost.