Michigan grant puts more kids in Pre-School classrooms

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Reading, writing and arithmetic – all things we remember learning in school. But what about tying our shoes and sharing?

State leaders in Michigan are emphasizing the importance of early education by granting more money to Michigan pre-schools in order to get more kids enrolled and ready for kindergarten.

And Niles Community Schools are making the most of their extra funds at the Northside Child Development Center.

“It's amazing because children the earlier they start the more they enjoy their educational experience, the more they're engaged, and the more success they will find,” said Zechariah Hoyt, principal at the Northside Child Development Center.

State leaders are calling it a victory for Michigan’s low and moderate income children.

“It's wonderful it's about $225 extra per student,” said Dr. Richard Weigel, superintendent of Niles Community Schools. “It gives us an opportunity to more adequately fund our preschool program to give us the needed funds to be able to not only teach the kids but provide additional services to the students.”

Statewide, current funds have been boosted by 60 percent, meaning more kids will be in pre-schools across the Wolverine State.

That includes the neighboring community of Niles.

“Last year we 96 slots for pre-school, this year we had 108,” Weigel said. “Last year our income for pre-school was $307,000 and this year it's $370,000."

And funds do more than just add bodies.

"It's huge, it is huge,” said Sue Benjamin, a Pre-K teacher at Niles. “Because you have to remember these 18 children come in knowing no basics. They can't tie their shoes, they can't open their locker. Some children are receiving help with this. I can move forward with academics."

Plus, the increase comes just a year after business leaders in Michigan endorsed an expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program.

“The GSRP program is designed around meeting the needs of parents who might not be able to afford a preschool on their own,” said Weigel.

So why are the pre-schools getting the boost?

“The statistics are actually by the end of 3rd grade, if they're not ready, they predict prison beds,” said Hoyt.

That is why faculty at Northside are dedicated to making pre-school count.

“School is not just teaching subjects,” said Weigel. “You have to learn school. Pre-k is a way to learn what school is, how to do it. These kids learn teamwork early, they get pre-reading skills, they get pre-math skills, they learn how to organize set patterns. There's so many different aspects about what happens in pre-school that prepares them for success later on."

This year’s extra $65 million for early education funding in Michigan is one of the largest expansions in the nation. It was an increase for per-student allotment meaning more money per head.

State leaders hope this gets more kids enrolled in pre-school, a grade which research shows can improve test scores and lower dropout rates.

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