Jacob Levine and Thomas Allen Proposal for Universal Early Education

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

House Bill NO. 4250 is a bill currently in the Michigan legislature. It calls for the repeal of school code bills, and for the obligation of every school district in the State of Michigan to provide at least optional full-day kindergarten. Our proposal wishes to expand even further upon this bill to call for mandatory kindergarten in the State of Michigan.

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

Students of all ages and races will be positively impacted by the implementation of mandatory kindergarten across Michigan because there is an extreme correlation between kindergarten attendance and childhood development. As students will develop more through earlier education, people of all ages should be smarter, more socially adept, and more successful in life, getting jobs, families, and attending higher education due to development improvements.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

We learned about the issues underlying our proposal through classes at the University of Michigan which taught us the benefits of early education, which starts at ages below Pre-K. Because we knew about these benefits proven through studies, we dug deeper into the situation in Michigan in order to find a way to enhance K-12 educational achievement. Discovering Michigan didn’t provide at least optional kindergarten in all school districts was a perfect outlet for us to implement such a proposal to solve issues regarding education.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Working at the Boys and Girls Club has allowed me to work with children over a wide-range of ages, from kindergarten aged children to teenagers. Working with the younger ones gave me a perspective on how they gained from early education. Further, other volunteers were very in favor of early education, further enhancing our beliefs that mandatory kindergarten should be present in Michigan.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

My newspaper: Mandatory Kindergarten

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Patricia Usami, 2nd Grade Teacher at Lake Forest Elementary in South Carolina. Patricia was a valuable resource for us to learn more about the immediate effect of kindergarten on students. Patricia teaches second grade in a state where kindergarten is mandatory and can see a measurable benefit for her students as quickly as second grade. The academic and social skills learned in kindergarten allow students to learn more efficiently through the rest of elementary school. This is a major selling point for our proposal. Patricia explains kindergarten succinctly as “an essential time for children to learn life skills. Developing skills such as taking turns, socializing, and following directions are crucial not only to later education but especially to succeeding in everyday life.”

CONSULTATION 2: Chief Programming Officer of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, Tammy Morris. The Autism Alliance is a philanthropic organization that focuses on Autism advocacy and support. Tammy is a strong proponent of early education for a reason that was overlooked by us until our conversation with her. She believes in mandatory kindergarten as the best option for increasing inclusion and the benefit of typical peer influence on children with disabilities. Research has demonstrated that the earlier intervention and exposure to best practice educational programming is provided, the better the outcomes. Relatedly, the return on investment in terms of public investment at an early age and less reliance on special education services later is great. These facts are significant in making the argument for mandatory kindergarten in regards to how it promotes developmental skills. Mandating that children with all types of strengths and weaknesses share a learning environment at such a young age can bridge the gap between the developmental paths of those with and without such disabilities. Creating a shared classroom can greatly promote stronger life, education, and career skills in those who need it most.

CONSULTATION 3: Chair of the Libertarian Party of Michigan, Bill Gelineau. Bill was a very useful consultation to learn more about the potential downsides of mandatory kindergarten. Bill indicated to us some of the many negatives associated with the consolidation of education. As the number of school districts in Michigan has shrunk, administrative costs have increased dramatically. He also directed us to look at some of the funding issues that came with past Proposals C and A. Given this, his underlying philosophy was that education is better handled at the local level. From this perspective, it is easier to see how mandatory kindergarten may further expand educational administrative costs and take more control away from local districts. He believes that kindergarten ought to remain optional on a state level not only so that local districts can choose to mandate it on their own but so that parents can make this decision for their own children and stay more invested in decisions about their child’s education. These views were very helpful for us to get a better understanding of some of the potential counter-arguments to our proposal.

 

Prospectus:

Our Michigan legislative proposal will focus on the need for mandatory Kindergarten education in the State of Michigan. Michigan is currently one of only six states to not mandate that school districts provide available public kindergarten to their students. This creates developmental issues which can lead to worse education and social skills, increased gang activity, economical issues, increased crime rates, and increased poverty. Early childhood education is crucial for developing the skills necessary for children to succeed in their later schooling and professional endeavors. Brain development and neuroplasticity are at their peaks earlier in life. Therefore, waiting to begin education in the first grade at the age of 6 leaves out a very important segment of the childhood experience from being exposed to a social environment and learning. Mandating kindergarten in Michigan will lead to children shaping their brain development around positive social interactions and the building blocks of important knowledge. This will allow for classroom dynamics to be improved in later years and further expand students’ ability to receive knowledge. A better-educated populace will result from this and boost State GDP, create a more informed voter base, and improve Michigan in many other areas as well. Our proposal will suggest mandatory Kindergarten education for all students in Michigan. While this may be expensive, the long-term benefits will far outweigh this cost. Additionally, this proposal still leaves wiggle room to help improve Michigan’s k-12 education system if legislators believe that mandating Kindergarten for all children reaches too far or has too many negative effects. If this is the case, bringing up the issue may still prompt the legislature to mandate that all districts provide optional Kindergarten (like 44 states already do) even if students are not mandated to attend. This compromise will still be a major boon to the state education system.

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: Establish legislation that would make Kindergarten mandatory for all children of proper age in Michigan. This should make it so that parents get their kids acclimated to the world and begin to socially and academically development by the age of 5. The current legislation that exists for this solution is non-existent in the state of Michigan, as kindergarten doesn't even need to be made optional in all districts. Through mandatory full (or half days) of Kindergarten, these young students will be able to develop earlier, which has a correlation to many physical benefits.

SOLUTION 2: Establish legislation that at least makes Michigan provide optional kindergarten to all children of proper age, like most other states do. In the State of Michigan, it is not even required for school districts to offer kindergarten to its residents, meaning that parents who want to send their kids to kindergarten may live in a district where it isn't even available. By making kindergarten available and at least optional in all districts in Michigan, parents can have the power and ability to send their young children into early education to promote development.

SOLUTION 3:  Establish legislation that at least makes Michigan provide optional kindergarten to all children of proper age, like most other states do. In the State of Michigan, it is not even required for school districts to offer kindergarten to its residents, meaning that parents who want to send their kids to kindergarten may live in a district where it isn't even available. By making kindergarten available and at least optional in all districts in Michigan, parents can have the power and ability to send their young children into early education to promote development.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

The Topic Coordinator I used to solicit advice and critiques from was Brett Spielman. Brett was amazed by the fact that Michigan didn’t provide optional kindergarten in all school districts, citing how important he felt kindergarten was to his own development. Brett then questioned us what the main source of opposition to such a positive bill was. This pushed us to do more research into what was preventing similar bills from being passed, leading us to stumbleupon transportation issues and parents rights debates.

Research process:

Our research process went very in-depth in order to find the best data and best consultants for us to use in our proposal. This includes our consultations that we have listed above, as well as having conversations with head volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club to get a better understanding of the situation at hand. Many published education and psychology studies show the positive effects of early education and provided easy access to data used to talk about the benefits of mandatory kindergarten. Further, we had to research the main cons and obstacles to getting such a proposal passed, which led us upon different routes to discovering difficulties that are prevalent in such a proposal, including transportation issues, high costs, low teacher availability, and special education. Reading different opinions from leaders of different organizations was also extremely helpful in understanding both sides of the story and thus was instrumental in us coming to a final conclusion about our proposal.

Author contributions:

Jacob Levine: I focused mainly on researching the history of similar proposals in the Michigan legislature. This included reading about Bill 4205, and then researching the benefits and risks of implementing such a proposal and the reasons for which Michigan is still one of the only 6 states that does not provide at least optional kindergarten. Weighing out the pros and cons, I then developed potential solutions to the issue at hand with my partner, Thomas Allen.

 

Thomas Allen: I focused mainly on researching possible consultants for our paper, including those who would talk favorably about the proposal and those who would explain to us some of the reasoning for why a similar proposal has not been passed in Michigan yet. With Jake, we consulted many of these possible consultations, and together narrowed it down to the 3 best consultations for our proposal, then summarized their main arguments.

 

Formal Proposal Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... Michigan’s education statistics are in the back-middle of the pack and declining, as reading, writing, and math scores continue to fall despite higher education budgets.

WHEREAS.... Michigan’s number of youth gang members is increasing as young adults need to turn to other means of living when education fails.

WHEREAS.... Michigan’s low-income youth have few early education opportunities, leading to educational inequity starting at a very young age.

WHEREAS…. Youth who require special education go without developmental and learning skills at a young age, further pushing them behind the curve.

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1.  Michigan implements mandatory kindergarten throughout the state provided by each school district. Transportation and funding will first have to come from higher taxes and philanthropic efforts pursued by the state government.

2. Young children will be forced into a learning environment where the developmental skills picked up here are highly correlated with increased life skills and more successful careers through higher education, jobs, and family life.

3. Michigan’s lower-income students and those who require special education will get equal opportunities for early education, promoting developmental growth for those who can benefit most from it.

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. Transportation needs creates difficulties. With an entire state of youth now attending mandatory kindergarten, the State of Michigan now sees itself with the responsibility of providing transportation to thousands of new students. Finding bussing and other means of transportation for such a large group of people, attending kindergartens all over the state, could prove to be extremely difficult.

2. With the need for transportation also comes the high costs for maintaining such transportation throughout the state. Further, there will be high costs that come with hiring the staff that is necessary for the students, from teachers to lunch-ladies. Maintaining all these kindergarten schools, as well as all the materials provided in these locations, will prove even more of a cost that falls upon the state and taxpayers.

3. Parent’s are naturally overprotective over their children. Imposing mandatory kindergarten for all would anger many of these parents as it infringes upon their own rights to decide what they want to do with their own children. Many feel that parents’ should have the final say in the path of their children’s education, which should not be affected by the government.

Costs and funding:

Our proposal would cost millions for the government to follow-through on. These costs stem from greater school maintenance, a greater need for transportation throughout the state, purchasing materials for all the classrooms, and paying for all the staff to be working at these schools. These costs would prove hefty, but we believe the future benefits of universal mandatory kindergarten outweigh these potential costs of such a proposal. Funding for such a proposal could come from an increase in taxes following a progressive pattern, as well as philanthropic donations by the many organizations which support such causes. With lower unemployment in Michigan, $280 Million in excess money from the 2016 Budget, an average of 75% of budgets going to some form of education or human service including transportation, Michigan is poised to be able to provide the first steps in pathing the way for mandatory kindergarten in the state. Those who may object to dedicating these resources to such a proposal include many politicians who believe that there is nothing wrong with the current system and wish to not have to pay in order to improve upon the early education of other people's’ children. The Libertarian Party, which believes in maximum freedom and minimum government, is one political group which has publicly voiced opposition and voiced their concerns to us.  

References:

http://www.miaeyc.org/

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/11/24/michigan-optional-kindergarten/76325102/

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/how-states-compare

 

http://ecs.org/clearinghouse/62/41/6241.pdf

http://www.parenttoolkit.com/index.cfm?objectid=B2B9AAC0-1BF4-11E4-A7A40050569A5318

http://www.pbs.org/parents/childdevelopmenttracker/five/approachestolearning.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/02/14/is-oklahoma-the-right-model-for-universal-pre-k/?utm_term=.3e604eef3dfb

https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/ECSQ_OK_Approved_422339_7.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299551/

http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/HE/mf_prekkinder.pdf

https://thinkprogress.org/six-states-dont-require-schools-to-provide-kindergarten-fe120c46dc8c#.i5hruizff

 

 

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Total votes: 24

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