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Early childhood advocates say recent state investment in preschool not enough

Jake Neher
Capital Area Community Services, Inc. has added over 275 children to its preschool program this year because of the state’s $65 million expansion of Great Start.";

Advocates for early childhood education say recent policy changes in Lansing are undermining the state’s attempts to help Michigan kids.

This year’s state budget increases spending on preschool for low-income families by $65 million a year. But advocates say that alone does not guarantee better results for children.

“It’s a broad range of policies and many aspects of family life that affect children,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell with the left-leaning Michigan League for Public Policy. “So we cannot simply isolate children from their families and think that programs that we cut that benefit parents will not ultimately have a huge impact.”

Zehnder-Merrell says the state has cut assistance to many low-income families in recent years.

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows only about one in three children under the age of 8 are developing the cognitive skills they’ll need as adults.

Lucy McClintic, who directs early childhood programs in and around Lansing for Capital Area Community Services, Inc. (CACS), says the cuts in state funding are not helping matters.

“The family stress and the lack of income just mounds up in terms of losses to the child,” said McClintic.

Governor Rick Snyder says he has championed a number of programs meant to help low-income families, including one that puts more social workers in public schools.