Secretary Duncan and Governor Snyder Promote Early Childhood Education

Who would have thought that all the finger painting, playing with blocks, and cutting and pasting that we did in preschool really meant something in our life? It turns out preschool and early childhood education have a big impact on our success moving forward. Education at an early age is so important that both a Republican and a Democrat agree on promoting it– together, side by side.

On May 6, 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and other HighScope Board members sat together on a panel at Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to discuss the success of the HighScope Perry Preschool Study and how we can deliver a good early childhood education to more children. HighScope is an independent nonprofit research, training, development, and public outreach organization that specializes in early childhood education.

HighScope’s Perry Preschool Study compared low-income children between the ages of 3 and 4 who attended a high-quality preschool and those who did not attend any preschool. The study took place between 1962-1967. The study followed these children through high school and into their adult life and found that the kids enrolled in the high-quality preschool were more likely to graduate high school. The researchers who conducted this study also found that the children who attended the preschool made more money at 40 than the people who did not receive an early childhood education. Ultimately the researchers found that for every one dollar invested in a high-quality early childhood education, society saves 7 dollars on unemployment benefits, crime, public assistance and special education. “If you can find me an investment that gives me 7-to-1 return, we should talk,” joked Secretary Duncan.

Secretary Duncan was at the panel discussion to support Obama’s policy initiative Preschool for All. Obama’s Preschool for All wants over a million at-risk 4 year olds to receive a high-quality preschool education. Obama plans to do this by giving 75 billion dollars to states committed to giving every children a high-quality preschool education. Secretary Duncan mentioned that Michigan alone could be given 160 million dollars, stressing that a good early childhood education is a “game changer.” “Taxpayer money we need to take very seriously; these are tough economic times,” noted Duncan, but he thinks that preschool education is a valid use of taxpayer money.

Gov. Snyder was at the panel discussion at the Perry Preschool to support Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). Through the GSRP, Snyder wants to make publicly funded preschool programs full day instead of half day and work to eliminate the huge wait list for public preschool. President of HighScope and co-founder of the Perry Preschool Study Larry Schweinhart noted that not all preschools are created equally. He believes that to give a child a good preschool education that will really benefit the child long term wherever he/she goes, there needs to be well-educated teachers who are determined to provide an active learning environment. “If you want to get what we got, you’ve got to do what we did,” said Schweinhart. Overall, the panel discussion was very positive but once we went outside the building feelings were different.

Protesters outside Perry Preschool

Right outside the Perry Preschool were a handful protesters who, surprisingly, were not protesting Snyder but Duncan. The mood was affected by the fact that the Friday before the panel discussion many teachers at that very preschool were handed pink slips. The protesters portrayed Duncan as a skunk; there was even a person dressed up as a skunk. The protesters were split into two groups: one group protested the closing down of their school while others objected to Duncan’s support of charter schools and vouchers. Although there seemed to agreement on the importance of preschool education at the panel discussion, there seems to be disagreement, as evidenced by the protesters, on how our political leaders are spending the limited resources allocated to education.