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Early Childhood Education Is an Investment in Michigan’s Future Economy, Talent

The argument for increased investment in early childhood education is often positioned as an ethical and moral imperative, but panelists at the “Closing the Opportunity Gap for Michigan’s Children” session passionately articulated that, even more importantly, it is an economic imperative for Michigan’s future growth.

While active intervention in early childhood education requires increased funding on the front end, panelists contended that the rewards for Michigan’s economy and talent pipeline would be self-evident on the back end. Without action, Michigan will eventually pay with a sluggish economy and a lackluster workforce.

“This is not about this would be a nice thing to do for kids. This is not a moral argument. This is actually an economic argument. It’s in your own self-interest…Education should be considered part of the national defense of the United States of America. Investing in our children is an investment in ourselves, in our jobs and investment in the economy,” said panelist and former Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter.

Key Takeaways:

  • 90 percent of the human brain is developed by the age of five. However, by the age of 16 months, experts can detect discrepancies in vocabulary and in behavior. Therefore, the need to intervene from a child’s birth through age five is essential.
  • The landscape of early childhood education in Michigan has shifted. With a stronger base of support and engagement from philanthropic foundations and other stakeholders, the task is now to bridge and align the resources that exist to better serve children.
  • However, it is not just up to government and nonprofits. Early childhood education is a team sport. Michigan’s business community can play a role by “making noise” to create a larger sense of urgency.
  • Too often, decisions about early childhood education systems are made by people who will never have to apply or access these programs. Community input is critical.

Hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, this session included panelists Robert Barnett, dean of the School of Education and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Flint; Emettra Nelson, parent and recent graduate of Michigan State University; Michael Nutter, professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs and former mayor of the city of Philadelphia; and Sean Welsh, West Michigan regional president at PNC Bank. The session was moderated by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press.