MI State Superintendent Tom Watkins Calls For
Statewide Early Start Pre Kindergarten
Early Start Pre
Kindergarten Policy Proposal
from State Supt. Thomas Watkins to the State Board of
Education, November 4, 2002
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The time to lead is now. I am proposing adoption of the
following policy statement:
Every four-year-old in Michigan shall be offered a high
quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunity by the 2006
school year. This voluntary early childhood development and
educational program shall be established according to
nationally recognized, high quality standards. It shall be
provided at no additional charge to all Michigan four year
olds without reducing funding for existing education, health
and child development programs.
The State Board Task Force, Ensuring Early Childhood Literacy
(www.michigan.gov/mde) chaired by board member Sharon Wise
states, "Studies show over one-third of American children
enter kindergarten unprepared to benefit from classroom
instruction." The report points out that nine out of ten
children who are poor readers in first grade have the
probability of being poor readers in fourth grade. Perhaps
even more ominous is that seventy-five percent of poor readers
who do not receive help before age nine continue to have
reading difficulty through high school.
Both the State Board Task Force and Ready To Succeed's recent
position paper, Pathways To Success for Our Youngest Children
(www.readytosucceed.org), call for better linkages among
education entities and increased public awareness regarding
the importance of early childhood education. Both call for
restoration of budget dollars for these vital programs.
Research on brain development and the value of early childhood
education is overwhelmingly compelling and clear. National and
state studies demonstrate that investment in early childhood
development enables children to start school ready to learn.
More importantly, it provides the foundation for continued
growth and educational achievement throughout the elementary
All of these actions will help. Yet, they are only cursory
attempts to address a problem that impacts our children and
our families. More than that, failure to take action to
prepare our youngest children to enter school ready to learn
will impact the very fabric of our society and the economic
stability of our State in the future.
Michigan cannot prosper unless we invest in our human capital.
There is simply no better way to do that than to invest in our
youngest citizens. The viability of our society, the strength
of our economy, the quality of our lives and the vibrancy of
our democracy and our prominence in the world depend on the
investment we make in our children today.
Michigan has fallen behind over the last decade by neglecting
to invest in the zero to age four years. In 1995 Georgia
became the first state to pay for preschool for every four
year old. North Carolina, New York and Okalahoma have followed
that lead. Many will argue that current fiscal challenges
prevent this investment. The response should be to ensure a
viable future for Michigan we must make this investment.
Common sense tells us we can invest now and reap future
benefits or we can refuse to act and suffer the consequences
later. Data supports the notion that investment in early
childhood education reduces crime, the incidence of welfare
and avoids unrealized human potential. In a competitive,
global society our most valuable national resource is our
I urge you to adopt this proposal and to forward it to the
legislature and to the governor requesting consideration as
policy and for appropriations in future legislative sessions.
All reality begins with a dream and a vision. I envision a day
when we will invest in our youngest citizens so that they will
have greater opportunities to grow into successful, productive