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Stateside: The possible return on investment for early childhood education

Notebook and pencil laid across the pages of an open book
Jane M Sawyer
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MSU Education Professor Sharif Shakrani has been found guilty of 'research misconduct'

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.

“It’s safe to say it’s a mixed bag. It depends who you talk to. A number of early childhood advocated were really ‘geeked’ that Governor Snyder mentioned early childhood education… But once you dive into the speech a little more and we start talking numbers, I think it’s safe to say it’s a different story,” said Guerra.

Guerra then discussed the issue of funding these proposals.

“Senator Kahn has been pushing for $140 million that would cover half-day preschool for those 29,000 [students]. If you listen to Governor Snyder’s bite, he says, ‘I don’t believe we can accomplish all that.’ And right before he said that, he spent five minutes talking about roads and bridges and how he thought it was a very big priority to do $1.2 billion in increased funding. That’s $10 billion over a decade versus $140 million [for education]. When you look at it in that light, it seems like not all priorities are funded equally.”

According to Dwyer, there is a noteworthy return investment on early childhood education.

“We’re talking about preschool funding in the context of what we’re spending on roads and the research shows that both investments pay off. One person I talked to said that road investments return about five percent per year on the money you spend. The return investment for preschool can be in the range of six to ten percent a year…” said Dwyer.

Dwyer said the idea that there could be a return on investment in early childhood education is something of a recent discovery.

“We didn’t know until the last ten years just how much of a return in investment we’d get in preschool,” he said.

“This idea of return on investment, business people- they’re numbers people- so they see that high-quality early education does pay off. That’s why the business community is getting behind it as well,” said Guerra.

“The HighScope Foundation... broke it down into four things that all high quality preschools should have: engaged parents, a way to evaluate students, active learning and good teachers,” said Guerra.

According to Dwyer, there is expected to be an increase in funding for early education in Michigan.

“It seems from what we’re hearing that something will happen. Mike Flanagan, the State Superintendent of Education, was quoted saying around $75 million of an increase, which would be an increase of 70 percent,” said Dwyer

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