A recent editorial in the Detroit Free Press again highlighted the importance of early education and care for the individual child AND for the prosperity of a City and State. I’ve observed it is much harder to make big structural changes in good times. It’s easier for people, companies, governments to maintain the status quo when things are good. It isn’t until the proverbial $#*& hits the fan that change becomes a welcome guest at the party. It’s hard to argue that there is a city that has faced greater challenges than Detroit’s recent struggles.
Much has been written about potential solutions to the City’s woes but this editorial in particular caught my attention because (disclosure – I am admittedly a big proponent of early care & education) of their direct correlation between Michigan’s financial stability and success and an investment in early education and care. And, my hope that Michigan may be the perfect storm of circumstances that enables the case for making early education and care a fundamental building block of any solution may finally reach receptive ears. Noting that a lack of quality early care and education leads to 11% of Michigan kindergartners repeating the grade and costs the state $100M annually, must open at least one pair of ears.
I get that the choice to devote funds to education and more specifically early education is a challenging one for politicians and legislators. Many of the pay offs are over the long haul and most politicians, by the time this investment pays dividends, their political career has long been over. But, 1- there are real dollars at stake and, 2- at some point (and I hope now is that point) you have to change what you put in to get something different back out. Yes, there will always be more immediate gains to be had, but the research has repeatedly shown that the return on investment in early education and care is a multiple of those immediate gains.
I truly hope there is a great test case very soon that other states will rally around. It may be Michigan, it may not, but Band Aids will not fix what is broken. We need a systemic change. As parents, however, we can’t rely on others to solve the problem. We have to be smarter parents…understand what’s important in the early years and what quality early care and education really means. Most importantly, we can’t only outsource our children’s development. There are tons of great teachers and care providers across the country, but the most influential and important person in your child’s early development is you!