Early childhood assessments spring up in supplemental budget discussions

LANSING - The Gongwer news agency today reported that the state would spend $12.5 million to assess early childhood and kindergarten programs that would help its application for $70 million in federal funds for a more comprehensive system under a supplemental that sprang out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

Gongwer reported:

HB 4445 was not on the committee's posted agenda but was the first item taken up. Early childhood advocates said while they know early childhood programs are important to future learning, there isn't a quality assessment of zero to five licensed centers and how those children are prepared for kindergarten.

The Office of Great Start within the Department of Education, along with the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, would train people to implement a comprehensive rating system for the state's nearly 14,000 centers, and see whether kindergartners had some exposure to early learning programs.

While K-12 schools officials said they support early childhood learning, there were some questions as to where the $12.5 million would come from. Officials said it was their understanding excess general funds available under the School Aid budget would cover that funding, but as the supplemental is worded, the SAF is ultimately responsible for covering the costs, which could affect the per-pupil foundation allowance.

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