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SBAM and Michigan business leaders say early childhood education matters to economic growth

May 31, 2012

A coalition of 100 business leaders from across the state, including SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler, is calling for greatly intensified state focus on early childhood education programs and strategy to ensure Michigan’s children are prepared to compete in the 21st century global economy. The group, Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, made the announcement at the Mackinac Policy Conference this week, where the members urged fellow business leaders and entrepreneurs to commit to support the Michigan Early Childhood Business Plan.

The plan calls on state policymakers and local school officials to:

  • Offer publicly funded preschool to all 4-year-olds who are eligible – Currently, Michigan has slots for only about half of the eligible 4-year olds. Approximately 38,000 4-year-olds are shut out of preschool every year.
  • Strengthen efforts to assure the healthy growth of 0 to 3-year-olds – The first 1,000 days are critical to a child’s brain development. Right from birth, children must be raised by parents and other caregivers who have the supports they need to be their children’s first and best teachers. To this end, the members support expansion of evidence-based programs for 0 to 3-year-olds and their families, particularly home visiting, for at-risk infants and toddlers.

The Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan was founded by 16 business leaders from across the state who believe strongly in the value and necessity of investment in early childhood. It is co-chaired by Doug Luciani, president and CEO, Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce, and Debbie Dingell, president, d2 Strategies.

“The goal of the council’s initiative is to encourage the State of Michigan to act with new commitment to ensure that all Michigan children arrive at school ready to succeed,” said Doug Luciani, co-chair of the Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan, and president and CEO of the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “We are calling on the State to offer publicly funded preschool to all 4-year-olds who are eligible and to strengthen efforts to assure the healthy growth of 0 to 3-year-olds.”

State business leaders who have signed the council’s new Michigan Early Childhood Business Plan include the executives of the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing regional chambers of commerce; Business Leaders for Michigan, executives from a range of banking, accounting and financial institutions; as well as executives from utilities, publishing, legal professions, real estate, health care, manufacturing and other industries.

The Children’s Leadership Council of Michigan call-to-action is supported by solid evidence of the importance of early childhood education:

  • Many of Michigan’s children are not on this clear path to prosperity. Seven out of 10 fourth graders are not proficient readers.
  • One out of three kindergartners is not fully prepared to learn when entering school.
  • For every $1 invested in high-quality pre-school and evidenced-based early childhood programs, Michigan taxpayers save several dollars in reduced costs for welfare, criminal justice, grade repetition for students and other savings.
  • A high-quality, globally competitive workforce depends on talented learners. The first key marker of student success is grade-school reading proficiency – and grade schoolers become proficient readers if they enter kindergarten healthy and ready to learn.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation hosted a panel discussion at the Mackinac Policy Conference that presented the business case for intensified preschool and other early childhood programs that will turn Michigan into a national leader for school readiness. “At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we believe that an investment in our children is an investment in our future,” said Sterling Speirn, president and CEO, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Supporting children from an early age is critically important to creating conditions that prepare children for long-term success and independence.”

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