early childhood education

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you are a school district where more than 80% of your students live in poverty, every penny that helps those students is critical.

And that's why there has been a collective gasp of disbelief, even anger, with the news that Detroit Public Schools has lost $4 million in Head Start funding.

The reason DPS lost the money is because they missed the application deadline.

A school spokesperson blamed a technical problem in uploading the application.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joined us on our show.

*Listen to our conversation with Rochelle above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, Governor Rick Snyder made good on his promise to boost preschool spending.

Today he got a chance to talk to some parents, teachers and school administrators in Grand Rapids about the proposal.

About a dozen four-year-olds sat in a circle around Gov. Snyder. He read them "Snowmen at Work," a children’s tale about what snowmen do for a living.

“Are they in school just like you?” Snyder asked the group. 

"Yeah!” they replied in unison.

“You have fun at school?"

"Yeah!”

toshibatelecom / toshibatelecom

Michigan's economy may be slogging its way up the hill towards recovery, but life is not getting as good as it should for children in our state.

That's the takeaway from the latest Kids Count report.

Here to tell us more is Jane Zehnder-Merrell. She's the project director for Kids Count in Michigan, part of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Listen to the full interview above. 

U-School

What if you could build a pre-school from the ground up?

What if you could take the things that seem to work well -- take out what doesn't -- and build-in new ideas after listening to your community?

That's exactly what my next guest is doing.

Ryan Brown wants to re-imagine what early childhood education looks like and feels like.

He's doing it with the "U School," which is opening next June in Ann Arbor.

And what's happening in these weeks before the U-School opens is worth looking at.

Brown is the co-founder, executive director, and a classroom teacher at the U-School, and he joined us today.

Listen to the interview above.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A group of police chiefs and district attorneys is asking Congress to invest $75 billion over the next ten years on early childhood programs with proven success. The group says the investment will more than pay for itself in terms of reducing crime and prison costs.

The group says it’ll save money on prison costs in the long run.

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller says the State of Michigan and the country is at a fork in the road; spend money now on early childhood development, or spend more money later in the corrections department.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

More streetlight and less blight in Detroit in 60 days

Detroit's emergency manager says residents will be able to notice more robust city services within the next two months. As the Detroit News reports,

"After five months on the job, Kevyn Orr says efforts to restore streetlights and reduce the number of abandoned structures will become more visible within 60 days. Meanwhile, dozens of new public safety vehicles are hitting the streets, and police officers and firefighters are being outfitted with new gear and equipment."

More high speed rail in south Michigan

"Michigan is adding more high-speed rail. The federal government will give the state more than $9 million to upgrade train tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The upgrade allows Amtrak trains to travel as fast as 110 miles an hour," Tracy Samilton reports.

Funding boost will allow more kids in preschool

"As many as 16,000 more 4-year-olds will be able to attend preschool in Michigan this fall, thanks to a big boost in the state's early education budget," the Associated Press reports.

Big jump in preschool slots for Michigan children

Sep 8, 2013
WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

As many as 16,000 more 4-year-olds will be able to attend preschool in Michigan this fall, thanks to a big boost in the state's early education budget.

Some of Michigan’s preschoolers are paying the price as federal sequester cuts sink in. On today’s show we take a look at what the cuts mean to families who rely on Head Start in Michigan.

Later in the hour, we speak with Blaine Pardoe, author of the new book Murder in Battle Creek: The Mysterious Death of Daisy Zick.

But first, Congressional leaders met today with President Obama to talk about the situation in Syria. Over the weekend, the President called for the United States to take action against Syria for their alleged chemical weapons use.  But the President said he wanted Congressional support for the action first.

Also, we hear from Congressman Justin Amash of west Michigan about his thoughts on the situation in the Middle East.

Finally, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen has been in continuous operation on Detroit's East side since the Great Depression starting in 1929, and the friars' mission in the city dates back even further to 1883. Brother Jerry Smith, director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen discusses how the face of poverty has changed over 130 years.

WoodleyWonderWorks / Flickr

These are trying times for families who rely on Head Start to give their preschoolers the big boost that can make the difference between success and failure in school.

That's because the federal sequester cuts have made a big hit on the number of slots available to preschoolers. 

Nationwide, 57,000 kids have lost access to Head Start. And the threat of deeper cuts looms when the debt ceiling rears its head again this fall in Washington.

Robin Bozek, the executive director of Michigan Head Start Association and Mary DeLuca, the  Head Start director for the Community Action Agency of Jackson joined us in the studio to talk about how Michigan’s preschool kids are affected by the budget cuts.  

Listen to the story above.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers recently approved a huge expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program. That's the state's preschool program for 4-year olds at risk of being under-prepared for kindergarten.

More money for preschoolers was one of the main initiatives in Governor Snyder's State of the State speech last January. And the Legislature was listening, because that $65 million increase represents a 60% expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program.

We wanted to talk about what this expansion means to preschoolers all over Michigan and what more needs to be done.

Mina Hong is a Senior Policy Associate of Michigan's Children, and Scott Menzel is the superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, and he also chairs the Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators' Early Childhood Committee.

Hong and Menzel joined us today to discuss the issue.

Lawmakers in Lansing recently approved a $65 million increase in the state's Great Start Readiness Program. That's Michigan's preschool program for 4-year olds at risk of being under-prepared for kindergarten. But, many childhood advocates say that's not enough. We took a look into whether more needs to be done.

We also heard about space exploration 21st century style. We spoke to a Michigan scientist who is using Kickstarter to make his research a reality.

Also, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will preside over the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. We spoke with Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press about what we can expect from the judge.

First on the show, the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing by the city of Detroit has some wondering if Detroit is not an isolated incident. Could other financially struggling cities be on the same path?

To help us answer this question, we turned to Michigan Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee. Kildee represents Flint and Saginaw.

user frank juarez / Flickr

Michigan schools got about a 3% boost in funding under the state budget passed last month in Lansing, but a new report says that might not be sustainable.

The non-partisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan says the extra money could be wiped out after next year. 

Bob Schneider is the group's state affairs director.

"Unless we find new revenue growth that isn't anticipated yet, or the state draws upon additional general fund resources, or other resources to bring them into the School Aid Budget, the K-12 schools are looking to potentially have to give back a good chunk of the gains that they've made."

The report projects a budget shortfall of about $240 million for the School Aid Budget in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Schneider says that's partly because of additional state spending commitments to things like teacher retirement and early childhood education.

Courtesy of Children First

Michigan has the highest rate of child poverty in the Great Lakes region, according to a report released Monday morning.

As Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reported, data from the 2013 Kids Count survey, a nationwide study that ranks states based on child well-being, shows that about 560,000 children in Michigan live in poverty.

That statistic has increased by 6% over the last several years.

In other areas, the state does show some signs of improvement.

Only 4% of kids in Michigan are uninsured. Nationwide, about 7% of children lack health insurance.

Steve Burt 1947 / Flickr

Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity team has been covering the research around early childhood education and the role it plays in a child's development.

That topic was discussed at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference this morning.

The Legislature and Governor Snyder have shown interest in boosting early ed programs in the state, but how much should they commit, and what kinds of programs work?

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White led a panel discussion on early education in Michigan.

Watch the discussion below (scroll five minutes in):

Panelists included:

Carla D. Thompson, vice president for program strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Rob Grunewald, economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Bob Harbison, board member, Smart Start Oklahoma

If there’s agreement on anything having to do with education policy in Michigan, it is that we aren’t getting the results we need.

Too many students are emerging from school with too few skills to make them competitive for jobs, not to mention the intellectual resources to live fulfilled and happy lives.

And our leaders are locked in increasingly bitter debates over what to do about this. Democrats blame conservatives for cutting education budgets and demonizing teachers and their unions. Republicans want to divert funding from traditional public schools and encourage parents to let free enterprise charter schools do the job.

But now there is significant evidence that both sets of arguments miss the real reason many Susies and Johnnies can’t read. The problem is that we are focusing on the wrong age group.

Michigan Radio does an interesting occasional series called Issues and Ale, in which those who know something about a particular public policy get together with citizens in a relaxed setting to discuss things that really matter. Last night we held one on “The Future of Public Education” in an improv theatre in the city of Ferndale, which I thought was an excellent choice.

Ferndale is an older, working-class Detroit suburb which has been a distinct community since the 1920s. Times are not what were, and the city has shrunk over the years to about 20,000 people. Ferndale has become somewhat well-known over the last two decades for its welcoming of the gay and LGBT communities, who have done much to revitalize neighborhoods and the city’s downtown.

But Ferndale also has a dedicated group of parents very concerned with education, their kids’ futures, and want to make sure their children are getting what they need to succeed.

Dustin Dwyer

 About 200 Michiganders will benefit from a new scholarship program announced today. 

But if you want to be one of the lucky recipients, there's a catch: you can't be any older than two. 

The state's Early Childhood Investment Corporation announced today that it's partnering with the Women's Caring Program on a new $700,000 program to help low income families afford child care. 

Jane M Sawyer / morgue file

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Governor Snyder announced his plan to increase funding for early childhood education during last week’s State of the State.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra and Dustin Dwyer are researching education in Michigan through the State of Opportunity project.

They spoke with Cyndy today about the benefits of early childhood education.

According to Guerra, there were waves of both skepticism and excitement after Gov. Snyder talked about early childhood education in his State of the State address.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Survey: It should be tougher to become a teacher

"It should be a lot tougher to become a teacher in this state. At least that's what the Center for Michigan found in a statewide survey of some 7,500 people. Eighty percent of educators polled say Michigan needs better teacher preparation," Kate Wells reports.

Governor Snyder wants state to put more money in early childhood education

Governor Rick Snyder wants the legislature to support more funding for early childhood education. As the Detroit News reports,

"Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday he will ask the Legislature to undertake a "significant phase-in" of 29,000 4-year-olds into public preschool programs over the next few years, an annual investment of $130 million. The state can't afford to add all 29,000 children eligible for the Great Start Readiness Program at once, Snyder said, so he intends to propose ramping up enrollment over a period of years to ease the impact on the budget."

Former Michigan Supreme Court justice Hathaway expected to plead guilty

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will be in court next week. She resigned from the high court on Monday.  As the Detroit News reports,

"Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will find herself on the other side of the bench on Tuesday when she's likely to plead guilty to bank fraud charges related to questionable real estate transactions, legal experts say."

iRon leSs / flickr

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that nearly 1 in 4 kids in Michigan lives in poverty. For a family of four that means living on $23,000, or less per year.

A new report says Metro Detroit has a serious problem with “disconnected” youth.

The Measure of America study shows 17%, or more than 85,000, of the region’s 16-to-24-year olds aren’t working or in school.

Using that definition of “disconnection,” the study looked at census data from the nation’s 25 biggest metro areas. Metro Detroit had the third-highest rate of youth disconnection.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Canada and US to sign updated pact to protect Great Lakes

"The U.S. and Canada are preparing to approve an updated version of a 40-year-old pact that commits both sides to protecting the Great Lakes. The Environmental Protection Agency chief  and Canada's environment minister will sign the new deal today in Washington, D.C.," according to the AP.

Romney pulling campaign ads out of Michigan

"Conservative groups backing Mitt Romney are pulling their ads from Michigan's airwaves. Most polls show President Obama coming out ahead in the state. But it's a tight race. Now conservatives are focusing their resources on a few key swing states," Kate Wells reports.

Republican backing early childhood education

"Republican State Senator Roger Kahn says the state should spend more on early childhood education. And he plans to urge Governor Snyder to increase spending for it by $ 140 million. Kahn is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  He says investing in the early years has a big payoff later, for the child, and for society. Kahn says early childhood education isn't a liberal issue," Tracy Samilton reports.

Mike Flanagan
Mike Flanagan / Twitter.com

The state’s education chief says money for early childhood education and community colleges needs to be part of fixing Michigan’s school funding system. Mike Flanagan is the Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction and leads the state Department of Education.

He spoke today at the first public hearing held by Governor Rick Snyder’s workgroup that’s devising a school funding proposal. The governor wants a system that rewards proficiency.
    
Flanagan says that won’t happen if the state doesn’t find a way to offer universal early childhood learning.

"We spend a billion dollars per grade and we spend nothing on early childhood, and we wonder why the results are exactly the same, and we blame the teachers, we blame the state superintendent, we blame the parent for not reading to them enough, and the bottom line is, we should blame the system first and foremost," he said.

Flanagan says every student should also be guaranteed a year or two of community college or its equivalent.  
    
The school funding workgroup will spend the summer working on its recommendations.

For now, four-year-olds in Michigan can enroll in kindergarten as long as they turn five by December 1, but that may change over the next few years as legislators consider when kids are socially mature enough to enter school.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would gradually change the age requirement of kindergarten enrollees over the course of three years.

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to create a more focused approach to getting young children ready for school.  The Governor says Michigan’s publicly and privately funded early childhood programs are fragmented, segmented; there’s not a coherent effort.