STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Gov Snyder calls for more early childhood funding, but is it enough?

Official press photo of Governor Rick Snyder

Early childhood education got a shout out from Governor Snyder last night in his annual State of the State speech. But was it a big enough shout?

Let's start with the major focus of Snyder's speech: roads and transportation. He called it the "toughest single issue" that he wants passed: roads. Over the next decade, Snyder wants to spend $1 billion more a year on the state's infrastructure. Here's a clip: 

Snyder spoke passionately about roads for more than five minutes - everything from how he wants to modernize the state's roads and bridges to how he wants to reform no-fault auto insurance.

Early education, on the other hand, got less than 30 seconds of air time. Here's the clip:


Snyder acknowledges that 29,000 four-year olds are eligible for the state's free preschool program, Great Start Readiness Program, but the Governor wouldn't put a specific dollar amount on how much funding should go into early childhood education other than calling for a "major budget commitment."

Numerous studies show high quality preschool for children at risk of school failure has a 7 to 1 "return on investment"; for every $1 invested in preK, taxpayers save $7 in the long run due to lower rates of grade retention, special education and crime, among other things.

As we reported earlier this month, Senator Roger Kahn (R) was hoping for $140 million for early childhood education.

Roger Kahn, a Republican Senator from Saginaw and Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Kahn wants to increase GSRP funding by $140 million, and he's pretty confident it will happen. He says he's spoken to all kinds of movers and shakers - people in Gov Snyder's administration, other legislators, preK advocates - and he says they all believe $140 million is a fair request. "Budgets are being constructed as we speak, and it is my hope that when the budget is delivered to the Governor, it will include this funding, if not at this level, I hope close to it."

But,  if Governor Snyder's speech is any indication, it doesn't appear likely Kahn will get the full $140 million he asked for. Michigan Department of Education Superintendent Michael Flanagan told Gongwer News Service that he's hoping for at least $75 million in early childhood education funds.

So, $75 million for early childhood education vs $10 billion for roads. What do you think about that distribution of funds?

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.
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