Budget Shuts Down Pre-School Programs

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

Some of our state's most at-risk four-year-olds, Whose only way to go to pre-school was through a free state-funded program, may have to give up that schooling.

"Half the funding was lost," explains Michelle Nicholson, who heads the Ingham ISD Early Childhood Education. "But it wasn't a 50 percent cut across the board. It means some programs have their funding cut totally."

That means nearly 300 children in Ingham County can no longer go to the pre-school program they either were planning on attending or were already attending this year. Nicholson says the state's school aid budget slashed funding for the "Great Start Readiness Program." Now some at-risk or low-income families have to quickly find somewhere else to put their kids.

"It's very difficult to make alternative plans. With high unemployment rate, a lot of families can't afford to pay for alternative programs," Nicholson says.

In Ingham County, the "Y-Care" program at the Oak Park YMCA has lost all its funding. And in Jackson County, A New Horizon Childcare, ABC Academy, Community Action Agency, Jackson Child Care Center and Jackson Community Preschool now no longer offer the Great Start Readiness Program-- not to mention others that lost partial funding.

The governor, who signed that budget, says new revenue is their only hope and urges people affected to call their legislators and ask that they be open to finding new money to fill the gaps.

"The biggest loss is for the children. This is an opportunity for them to be better prepared to enter kindergarten and to develop the skills they need," Nicholson says.

But with alternatives like head start virtually full, parents may be left to their own devices to make sure their kids aren't left in the dust.

The Great Start Readiness Program cuts are also affecting the Lansing School District. We're told the district had asked for additional funds this year to start seven new preschool classes. They recently learned they didn't receive that funding. Now parents have to find new schools to put their preschoolers in because an LSD spokesman says their pre-school classes are full.

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