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Each year too many Michigan children – as many as one in three, according to a recent survey - enter kindergarten not ready to learn. Some have previously unidentified health problems. Some have social or emotional problems. Some have developmental or learning problems.
For these children, who all too often are from low income and/or minority families, not being ready for school becomes a life-long sentence of poor academic achievement, diminished expectations and limited opportunity.
Thankfully, the negative impact of the majority of these health, developmental, and learning difficulties can be minimized or even eliminated with early identification and intervention.
While state programs exist to address health, social-emotional, developmental and learning concerns of young children and their parents – local availability, access, capacity and quality varies tremendously.
Each state agency approaches financing, policy development, program development and accountability differently. Past efforts to coordinate state government early childhood programs and build partnerships with the private sector have been difficult to sustain and have achieved limited success. Local communities have been somewhat more successful, particularly in rural areas with limited populations and few options for services.
The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the unprecedented growth and development that occurs during the first five years of life, and the importance of those years to future school success, but public will to support a tax increase, for example, to increase early childhood investment, remains untested.
Michigan has been fortunate over the past several years to have a cadre of state leaders, including the business and foundation communities, at the table with an unwavering determination to improve the school readiness of our youngest citizens. With the enormous economic challenges facing our state, their determination to keep our state’s youngest learners at the forefront of Michigan’s priorities.
Great Start and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation were created for just such a purpose.
Only a few years old, Great Start is off to a great start indeed. All across Michigan, communities are hard at work on ensuring that children arrive at the schoolhouse door ready. It only makes sense. The cost of unreadiness is significant.
Children who start behind, stay behind. Children who are held back in school are more likely to drop out long-term. Children who dropout are at significant risk of becoming victims of, or instigators of, criminal behavior. Chronic physical and mental health issues that are left untreated often result in higher health care and/or special education costs. And on and on.
The research is clear: Getting kids off to a great start is just common sense. It’s both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. That’s why a Great Michigan needs Great Start.