More than 3,400 people gathered at the State Capitol yesterday to support early childhood education programs for the “Star Power Rally.”
A contingent of 150 from the Southwest Early Communities (ELCs)took part in the rally and met with their state legislators to voice concern about proposed funding cuts to early childhood education.
Cheryl Walker, who attends the McGraw ELC in southwest Detroit, is one of those who made the trip to Lansing. Cheryl, 55, provides care for her grandson and three other young children in her home, and has been learning about good childcare and effective education techniques at the ELC since the beginning of the year.
“It was a great experience talking to the legislators and letting them know how crucial it is for children to get an early start in life,” Cheryl says.
Gloria Collins, 52, also went to Lansing on one of the three buses that carried Southwest ELC staff, program participants, children, and others. Gloria cares for two young grandchildren while her daughter-in-law (their mother) works. As a result of the lessons Gloria has learned at the McGraw ELC, her grandchildren are more enthusiastic about learning, she says.
In Lansing, Gloria and other ralliers from southwest Detroit met with Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents the area. “I have never done anything like this before,” Gloria says. “But I loved the experience. It made me feel important by being involved in an issue that’s so important.”
The Star Power Rally is an annual event sponsored by theEarly Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC). ECIC was founded in 2005 to be the state’s focal point for information and investment in early childhood in Michigan.
The Southwest ELC contingent was organized by ELC program staff and by Susan Hooks-Brown and Vanita Mistry of the Early Care Organizing program. Both programs are part of the Early Childhood and Family Literacy Center of Excellence at Southwest Solutions.
“The Star Power Rally is an important event,” says Donna Cielma, director of Early Childhood and Family Literacy. “Early childhood education is one of the most critical services we can provide to help ensure a child’s success in school and in life. However, as legislators struggle to balance the state budget, significant funding cuts are still possible for early childhood education programs. We strongly believe that we need to continue to advocate for more funding instead of cuts.”
Studies show that investment in early childhood education is extraordinarily cost-effective. Every $1 invested in early education saves taxpayers $17 in other costs.
“Undoubtedly, early childhood education is a wise and excellent investment,” Donna says.