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Detroit gets $50 million for early childhood development efforts

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio
The Kresge and Kellogg Foundation have pledged $50 million to early childhood education efforts in Detroit.

There are new guidelines for boosting early childhood development efforts in Detroit, and they come with a $50 million investment.

“Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Community Framework for Brighter Futures” emerged from a year’s worth of planning efforts.

It has a variety of suggested strategies, some more concrete than others. But one thing is concrete: it comes with a $50 million pledge from the Michigan-based Kresge and Kellogg Foundations.

Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron says half the foundation’s investment will be made within the next year, with a focus on boosting “quality” child care options. Some of that money will go toward improved training for early childhood educators, and boosting those workers' salaries.

“Low funding and low salaries create turnover and mobility,” Tabron said. “So what we’re trying to do is stabilize the profession so that there can be continuity for the children.”

Tabron said Kellogg will also contribute to scholarships “that help eliminate the financial burden of child care costs for low-income families."

Rip Rapson, CEO of the Kresge Foundation, says it’s already begun work on a “revolving loan fund” to help improve child care facilities across the city. There are also plans afoot to build a state-of-the-art early childhood development center in a Detroit neighborhood.

Kresge says that to some extent, Detroit can look to other cities for models and best practices in this effort.

“Early childhood development across the country has been taken on successfully in community after community after community,” Rapsons said. “And it’s now our turn.”

The group behind the “Hope Starts Here,” which included Detroit parents, activists, and members of the business community, will also keep meeting and help launch the Detroit Early Childhood Advocacy Network, which will serve as the “connective glue” between diverse early childhood development efforts.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, says there’s a lot to be excited about here.

But Vitti warns that similar endeavors have failed before, and this one "will fail if we don’t own the reality of doing things differently. And include the school district.”

Vitti says he’s encouraged so far by the coordinated approach between different groups and its emphasis on approaching child development and education as a continuum.

“That’s also why I’m excited about this, because there’s a recognition that the work in early learning has to culminate and integrate with what happens in kindergarten and beyond,” he said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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