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Erin Einhorn/Chalkbeat

A federal grant will allow Michigan to improve access to early childhood programs for families

Michigan is getting a boost of federal funding to help improve preschool programs in the state.

That’s coming via a three-year, $40.2 million preschool development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Michigan Department of Education announced the award this week.

It will fund a number of initiatives. A key proposal would help families navigate what can often be a confusing system of early childhood programs.

“Parents will be better informed to make choices and access high-quality early childhood programs and services for their children to transition successfully into elementary school,” state Superintendent Michael Rice said in a statement.

In the state’s application for the money, officials noted that one of the findings from a previous assessment is that “families lack knowledge of and trust in programs and services.”

Improving early childhood education is a big goal for state education leaders, particularly during a time when lawmakers are upping the ante on student academic performance. This year, for example, schools will have to begin holding back some third-graders who are behind in reading.

The intense push to improve and expand preschool programs is most noticeable in Detroit, where Mayor Mike Duggan has pushed for free preschool for all 4-year-olds, and with an ambitious initiative, Hope Starts Here, that seeks to ensure Detroit takes steps such as increasing the number of children in quality preschools. It’s unclear how the federal grant might help those initiatives. 

These are the three goals of the grant:

  • Prepare some students, including those from low-income families, to enter kindergarten and improve transitions into schools.   
  • Encourage partnerships between early childhood education providers, as well as improve coordination and quality of those services.
  • Maximize parental choice.

The state, which was one of 20 states to receive the grant, will get $13.4 million in each year of the grant. The state also must provide 30% matching funds, which amounts to about $12 million over the three years. Forty-five states applied for the funding.

If you want to read more about Michigan’s plans, here’s the proposal the Michigan Department of Education submitted to the federal government: