Baby Steps Are Good, But Bold Leaps Are Required

We applaud the efforts of the Michigan House of Representatives to re-instate $5 million in their version of the Department of Human Services’ budget to support extended learning options.  These programs provide young people with experiences that cut down on summer learning loss, improve school attendance, connect classroom learning with life relevance, as well as reduce violence, substance abuse and teen pregnancy and other behaviors that place young people at risk of school failure.

Not only do these programs result in better outcomes for kids, they also leverage public and private resources, and join the efforts of the nonprofit and for-profit sectors in a community to assist the work of schools and families.  Even in the short-term, this investment will come back to the state many times over.  And, while these programs improve educational success for all students participating, they are most impactful for the students who face the most extraordinary educational challenges – kids from low-income families and kids of color.

Directed by the federal government, and led by a wide variety of education stakeholders, Michigan has committed to eliminating educational gaps by 2022.  Gaps between children of different races and ethnicities; gaps between children from low-income families and those from families with more income; gaps between children receiving special education or English Language Learners and others who don’t receive those services; and even those gaps within every school between those who perform at the top and those who perform at the bottom.

Eliminating those gaps is not only a worthy task, but an essential one if we want Michigan, our families and our communities to regain their economic footing.  A return to state investment in quality extended learning programs is a step in the right direction, but $5 million isn’t nearly enough.  As recently as 2004, Michigan prioritized $16 million to support these programs, in addition to the federal resources available that even when taken together, served only a fraction of those who could benefit.

More investment is essential to support quality before- and after-school, summer, and other out-of-school-time programs; and assist community development of innovative options for their young people.  We urge the Senate to embrace at least the $5 million starting point, and we urge the Legislature to understand the key role that these programs play in getting to the educational success that we need for all Michigan’s young people.

-Michele Corey