Michigan has a long history of work in ECE and linking child care and economic development. The Michigan 4C Association was started in the 1970’s to model the Federal Community Coordinated Child Care (4C) Committee program. The organization has worked at the state and local level to provide technical assistance and training, professional development, resource and referral services, research and education and policy advocacy work for Michigan’s children and family. The Michigan 4C Association currently supports a network of 16 regional offices. The economic message is part of the organization ongoing work as shown by the its tag- line – Michigan Works when Child Care Works
In the mid-1980’s The Michigan Women’s Commission conducted a survey that identified child care as top need for working women. These results assisted in the creation of a state 4C office. The link to working women was an early economic message and the economic impact message has remained part of the organization’s mission. Efforts around ECE were also seen as a way to increase investments for low income families.
The economic impact message is well known in Michigan as it is home to the High/Scope Perry Preschool research project. This project was a catalyst in moving the economic impact of early education concept forward in Michigan as it provided ready data to validate the argument for investments in young children. This continues to be a key message to state policy makers.
Michigan has not completed a state economic impact report and after several starts and stops, and new planning is currently underway to tackle this project.
Using Economic Messages
Michigan has had ups and down in term of state support and funding for ECE. A strong network of partners has leveraged federal and philanthropic investments to support ongoing work to increase the quality of care and of the child care workforce. As part of these initiatives, ECE advocates and organizations have continued to share the economic impact message with policy makers, Michigan’s citizens, and the business community. Ongoing efforts use the economic impact message to strengthen the case for investing in the state’s identified ECE needs. Using an economic framework, ECE advocates continue to collect and disseminate current data on the ECE system, make connections to workforce and economic development professionals, and create opportunities to engage with the business community.
Governor Blanchard encouraged connections between ECE and the business community in establishing a "Michigan Child Care Clearinghouse" that supported businesses engaging in employer-sponsored child care. Employer toolkits were developed for business leaders to use when considering how best to support their working parents. Relationships that developed with business leaders through local chambers helped to encourage businesses to adopt family friendly business practices. As of late this work has been impacted by the economic struggles of Michigan’s traditional industry sectors. However, efforts are ongoing to offer child care resources and referral services and conduct workplace seminars on child care.
Continuing to collect and share relevant data on ECE reinforces the economic message to parents, providers, businesses and communities. Michigan’s 4C Association compiles an annual report on the “Cost of Care” that uses local data to show the cost of care by type of provider, age, and geographic location. In 2003, they began producing “A Profile of Child Care” report that compiles information on availability, cost and quality of child care in Michigan.
Connecting ECE to the top issues facing the state and community added merit to Michigan’s case. New efforts are underway to make stronger connections to the workforce development system that is struggling to assist workers and families impacted by the significant job losses in the state. Onsite child care referrals are being made at workforce/job seeking service locations for people looking for jobs. Trends in the state show significant growth in family, friend, and neighbor care because of the need for 2nd, 3rd shift and weekend care.
Boosting the Economic Power of Early Care and Education: Key Highlights
A 2005 Public Policy Conference entitled “Child Care Is Everyone’s Business” featured Art Rolnick from the Federal Reserve Bank in Minneapolis. He spoke to more than 250 leaders from child care, business, and government on his work “Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return.” The turn out at this conference from legislators and business leaders was not as high as was hoped. An evaluation of the event indicated that the program was too long to attract legislators and business leaders. In an attempt to better reach the legislative audience, a breakfast event was hosted by the bipartisan Children’s Caucus with keynote speaker Rob Grunewald, also from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Mr. Grunewald presented his work on ECE that illustrates the public and private returns on early childhood investments.
In December 2007, former Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina, who presided over the creation of North Carolina Smart Start Program, spoke at the largest meeting of state businesses leaders about the importance of investment in ECE.
James Heckman, PhD, was a guest of the State’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation and spoke to state policy and business leaders on the economic impact of ECE investment. His stature allowed the economic impact message to get on the radar screen of key state leaders.
State and Legislative Actions
In 2007, Michigan was award a grant from the National Governors Association to support a Governor’s Summit on Early Education. The Michigan Early Childhood Challenge Summit built on state and local level ECE efforts connected to the State’s Great Start Initiative. Prior to the summit, the planning team conducted brainstorming sessions that identified six areas as having significant impact on families. Each committee developed objectives and strategies to achieve successful outcomes in these six areas. The summit provided an opportunity for leaders from across the state to come together, hear the long and short term cost of under investing in these critical areas, and respond to the drafted issue areas. At the end of the Summit participants were asked to vote on their top three priorities from among the six discussed. Early childhood education was first on the list.
Great Start was announced in 2004 by Governor Granholm as a first step in increasing the public understanding of the economic and social importance of investing in ECE. This initiative targets it work on efforts to 1) better coordinate children’s services provided by the State of Michigan; 2) strengthen Michigan’s early childhood efforts; and 3) create a state plan for building an early learning system for all children. Implementation of this work is done through local Great Start Collaboratives that coordinate existing early childhood services, identify and fill gaps in services, and ensure service availability to every child in the community. The Great Start Collaboratives are coordinated through the State’s intermediate school districts.
In 2005, the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) was established as the non-profit corporation charged with helping the local collaborations focus their early childhood efforts, and better connecting these collaborations with the Great Start Initiative. In addition, the ECIC assists in leverage funding to expand the availability of high-quality ECE. ECIC also makes grants to local collaboratives working to earn a designation as a Great Start Collaborative as well as to those who have already have their designation. Grant funds support early childhood system planning and implementation.
The 2007 state budget included $1.75 million for an expansion of the Great Start Collaborative as well as $2.8 million for the Michigan School Readiness Program to provide pre-kindergarten programs for at-risk 4 year olds. The Governor’s budget has earmarked funding for the Great Start Initiatives.
Funding is currently in the budget for a pilot of the quality rating system and an innovative demonstration around family, friend, and neighbor care. In addition, the Governor has asked for $21 million in additional funding for child care subsidy to include a raise in child care provider reimbursement rates.
Michigan 4C Association provides technical assistance, training and other services to the early childhood care and education community in efforts to improve children's success and development. The website has an extensive history of the organization as well as information about the regional offices, resources for parents and providers, data research and policy information.
Michigan Coalition for Children and Families is a statewide, non-partisan network of more than 70 organizations and individuals with working to improve the quality of life for Michigan children and families. Website contains policy and legislative information regarding efforts in Michigan and at the national level.
Project Great Start has information and resources for parents and providers on the Great Start Initiative.
Voices for Michigan's Children is a statewide organization that works with policy leaders, businesses and local communities on behalf on Michigan's children and families. The website has policy and legislative information, research, and publications.