Commentary: Office of Great Start vital to helping kids and MI business

LANSING - Michigan's youngest children will be helped by the state's new Office of Great Start, according to a commentary in the Lansing State Journal. In turn, state businesses will benefit.

The Oct. 30 commentary, written by David Hollister, chair of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation executive committee, credits Gov. Rick Snyder for creating the new Office.

Hollister's commentary follows:

Office of Great Start vital to helping kids - Michigan is a leader in programs for early education of children
By David Hollister

Quietly, a new day has dawned for Michigan's youngest children.

As of Oct. 1, the governor's new Office of Great Start within the Michigan Department of Education is open and it promises to help transform how we view education in Michigan and how we position our children to participate in the intensely competitive, technological international economy.

Let me illustrate what I mean by talking about two children.

The first child, John, has a mother who doesn't get the proper prenatal care, grows up without a "medical home" that ensures consistent, comprehensive care, spends his days while mom is at work in substandard child care, and is never enrolled in a quality preschool. John starts kindergarten insecure and with limited reading skills.

The second child, Jose, has the opposite experience. He and his mom get proper medical care. While mom is working he's in a quality child care facility. Later, he's one of the lucky 47,000 low-income, at-risk 4-year-olds who attend preschool through the state's Great Start Readiness Program. (Another 40,000 qualify, but the state hasn't yet devoted enough resources to send them.)

Which child do you think is likelier to succeed?

Exactly. Research has long since confirmed that "Jose" is likelier to do better in school and in life, whereas "John" is more likely to struggle, repeat classes, require remediation or special education and, down the line, end up on welfare or in the criminal justice system.

That's not being dramatic. That's the truth. The vast majority of a child's brain develops during those crucial early years and many developmental factors - physical, social and emotional - figure into how well children do in school. Gov. Snyder recognized those facts early on and decided that if we do better by our kids they're likelier to become the type of healthy, employed, tax-paying, business-building adults Michigan needs to thrive in the global economy.

And that's why he created the Office of Great Start, which establishes Michigan as one of the most progressive states in America.

The Office will build a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families, an approach that increases access and quality, and by working closely with Michigan's Early Childhood Investment Corp. will ensure continued private investment in early childhood.

Government can't and shouldn't do the job alone. We all have a stake in having our children prepared to compete in the new economy. That's a smart business investment.

The Office of Great Start in collaboration with the public/private partnership represented by ECIC also will greatly increase the state's chances of winning as much as $70 million through the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

But whether or not Michigan is a grantee, these are exciting times. As the governor has said, Michigan is on its way to developing "a reputation as one of the best states in the country to raise a child."

And we're doing it by investing and leveraging our resources where they will surely do the most good.

In our youngest.