Legislative updates, federal and state budget information, state and national policy headlines and opportunities around the state to raise your voice on behalf of young children. Every voice. Every child.


                                                                                        April 21, 2014
  • Legislature Urges School Districts to Support Community-based Preschool Classes
  • Advocates Rally for Prevention Services for Children who are Abused and Neglected
  • U.S. Senate Hears Testimony for Strong Start for America's Childrens Act


Legislature Continues to Support Funding for Early Childhood Priorities; Community-based Preschools Get Attention in Lansing
The House of Representatives returned from Spring Break for one day of work last week and immediately went back to work on the state’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget.  The House Appropriations committee met throughout the day on Thursday and ultimately passed two large spending bills to the full House; a general fund omnibus budget bill (HB 5313) and an education omnibus bill (HB 5314).  From an early childhood perspective, the bills continue to include the increased funding for early childhood supports and services proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder in his FY 2015 budget plan including: expanding Healthy Kids dental to include Macomb and Kalamazoo counties, increased funding for home visitation programs in northern and rural counties, increased rates and allowable hours for subsidized child care, and another $65 million increase to the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP).
The debate over the policies dictating the expansion of GSRP continues to dominate discussion of early childhood issues in Lansing.  A growing concern among many legislators is the amount of GSRP funding being provided to community-based organizations (CBO).  The current FY 2014 budget required Intermediate School Districts (ISD) to set aside at least 30 percent of their GSRP funding for non-school based CBOs.  The inability or unwillingness of most ISDs to meet this threshold has frustrated many legislators and led to an amendment being added to HB 5314 that is meant to strengthen this requirement of the ISDs moving forward.  The Senate returns from Spring Break this week and this issue is certain to be discussed when the Senate Appropriations committee takes up their version of the FY 2015 budget bills.  
Matt Gillard is the President/CEO of Michigan’s Children

Rally at State Capitol on Tuesday Focuses on Prevention Services for Abused, Neglected Children

On Tuesday hundreds dressed in blue will march down Michigan Avenue near the Capitol building in Lansing with a common mission:  To show support for prevention programs that counter abuse and neglect of children in Michigan.

Sponsored by the Children’s Trust Fund (CTF), the sixth annual Prevention Awareness Day begins with a rally on the Capitol steps at 11 a.m. with speakers Maura Corrigan, the director of the state Department of Human Services, Sens. Randy Richardville and Gretchen Whitmer and CTF Board Chair Lori Wortz. All are welcomed.

The one-hour rally will be followed by a short march to the corner of Washington Boulevard where participants will plant a “pinwheel garden” symbolizing the bright future all children deserve. There will be visits with lawmakers, as well.

For 63 children in Michigan in 2012, the hopes for a bright future ended tragically and far too early, however.  These victims of abuse and neglect were among 1,640 children who died across the country that year. In total, there were nearly 34,000 children who were victims of abuse and neglect in Michigan last year. 

To read the rest of the story, please turn to the Michigan Sandbox Party website here.

Efforts to Fight Infant Mortality Receive Boost from Michigan Health Endowment Fund

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund has received its first payment in the amount of $100 million from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as part of a law converting Blue Cross to a nonprofit mutual in 2013 requiring it to be abide by the state's Insurance Code.
The company was previously known as the insurer of last resort and therefore subject to certain insurance rules but not others. The conversion came about with the implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which essentially eliminates the need to have an insurer of last resort in any state.
When Governor Rick Snyder signed the conversion into law in PA 4 of 2013, it also required the company to contribute up to $1.56 billion over 18 years to the Health Endowment Fund, which is intended to fund health programs, particularly those targeted to children and seniors.
The fund is also expected to fund programs reducing infant mortality, increasing wellness and fitness programs, providing access to healthy food, making technology enhancements, helping with health-related transportation needs and preventing food-borne illnesses.
The payments Blue Cross makes to the fund have an annual cap of $50 million, but also allow for the fund to benefit when the company has a strong financial year (such as in the case of its first deposit).
-- From the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health’s Friday Notes


U.S. Senate Holds 2nd Hearing on Strong Start Act for America's Children

Major Early Childhood Advocates from government, industry and education testified last week before the U.S. Senate when the Senate held its second hearing on the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.  If adopted, the legislation would create a 10-year plan employing federal-state partnerships to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5. The hearing’s testimony and the recording are available here.  The witnesses included:  John E. Pepper Jr., Retired Chairman and CEO of Proctor & Gamble; Mayor Angel Taveras from Providence, Rhode Island;   Dr. W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research in New Brunswick, N.J.;  and  Dr. Grover “Russ” Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., also issued a press release which reflected his remarks at the hearing, his interest in early learning and his plans to combine $22 billion in federal early childhood funding into one program with greater state flexibility.  The proposed Alexander alternative does not appear to include any additional funding for early childhood.  Rather, it seems to assume that there are adequate resources available that simply need to be re-targeted.

Although the details of the plan are not yet available, this is quite a challenging plan and there is much work ahead to develop increased support for Strong Start and to ensure that any new early childhood initiative includes high quality standards and significant additional investments in early childhood, which we know is  already sorely underfunded.

-- From The National Women’s Law Center


What people are saying about early childhood...

“According to new numbers from the Michigan Department of Community Health, fewer than 72 percent of Michigan children and 63 percent of adolescents are fully immunized, leading to outbreaks of preventable diseases. At the same time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 5.3 percent of Michigan parents simply refuse to immunize their children, ranking Michigan 4th worst in the nation when it comes to vaccine waivers. These troubling numbers come despite the fact that childhood immunizations protect our kids from infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella and more."

~ Kenneth Elmassian, D.O., president of the Michigan State Medical Society. Charles Barone II, past president of the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chief of pediatrics at Henry Ford Health System.
(Detroit News, April 10, 2014)





Early Childhood Poverty Damages Brain Development, Study Finds

Children who are exposed to poverty at a young age often have trouble academically later in life. But according to new research out of the Washington University School of Medicine, poverty also appears to be associated with smaller brain volumes in areas involved in emotion processing and memory. Read more  by clicking here.

Tracking Kids over Decades Shows Effect of Early-Childhood Lessons

A study published in Science Magazine examining the long-term impacts of certain education and medical treatments in childhood found great support for early intervention, according to an article, “Tracking kids over decades shows effect of early-childhood lessons," in the Seattle Times.

Between 1972 and 1977, researchers randomly studied 111 children, from birth to age 8, and followed up decades later when those kids became adults. (The study was published in Science Magazine, which requires a subscription. But you can read a summary here and look over some data here.)

The kids, all of them from poor families in rural North Carolina, were divided into two groups. One half received language lessons, social stimulation and emotional guidance — that is, high-quality daycare — eight hours a day, for their first five years. They also got two meals, a snack, regular check-ups and medical treatment when ill. The other group received no special attention.

After these subjects reached adulthood, at about age 30, the researchers checked back. They found that children who had received services – valued at $16,000 per child – were less likely drink to alcohol as teenagers, more likely to have health insurance and at significantly reduced risk for many costly health problems like high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease.


When it Comes to Expanding Pre-K, Americans are Divided by Party and Race

What policies would do the most to increase opportunity for children? The latest College Board/National Journal Next America Poll finds relatively broad consensus on what options provide the most effective points of leverage—but stubborn differences remain between Democrats and Republicans, and between whites and minorities. Read more here.

Envisioning a Digital Age Architecture for Early Education

A new brief from the Early Education Initiative at New America, entitled "Envisioning a Digital Age Architecture for Early Education" lays out the beginnings of a new early education for the digital age.  Read it here.


Michigan Headlines 

“Opinion: The case for vaccinating children,” The Detroit News
“Michigan child care costs among highest nationally for infants, preschool age kids,”

National Headlines

"You may be surprised by the states that support pre-K,"  The National Journal

“Stressed out in America: 5 reasons to let your kids play,” The Huffington Post

“Commentary:  Nadine Burke Harris: Toxic Stress”

"Still concerned about what's next for early childhood education," The Huffington Post

Rally Comes to Lansing on Tuesday
Opportunity and Equity Workshop May 5
Each day, a growing number of people struggle to make ends meet, yet there are promising strategies and tools that can help fight this trend that have been proven to reduce poverty and build prosperity. The Michigan-based Prosperity Coalition is hosting a day-long seminar on fighting poverty and building prosperity on May 5 in Novi. For more information, click here. The registration deadline is April 30.
Upoming 'Strong Start' Webinar

The Strong Start for Children Campaign is having its next webinar in a series to engage members of the Campaign around non-profit friendly election work and to continue the momentum on advocating for early learning as we get closer to the 2014 election and eventually the 2016 election cycle.  The next webinar is Thursday, April 24th at 2 p.m. EST.  You can sign up by clicking here.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have an idea for a blog, or story that you want to share with the Michigan Sandbox Party?  A story to tell? We’d love to hear from you! If you work in the early childhood field, are a parent or supporter of early childhood issues, you have important insights and opinions about policies and developments that mater to all of us.  Just email us at

To access the State House-Senate Calendar for this week, click here. Then click on the Meetings Calendar tab.
Senate Appropriations
April 22, 2014
2 p.m.
3rd Floor, Capitol Building
Agenda:  School aid appropriations FY 2014-15; Education Budget FY 2014-15; Department of Human Services 2014-15
Senate Appropriations
April 23, 2014
1 p.m.
3rd Floor, Capitol Building
Agenda:  TBD
Senate Fiscal Agency Board of Governors
April 24, 2014
8:30 a.m.
Room S-324 Capitol Building
Agenda: Fiscal Agency Periodic Update
Senate Appropriations
April 24, 2014
10:30 a.m.
3rd Floor Capitol Building
Agenda: TBD
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The Michigan Sandbox Party is supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Copyright © April 21, 2014 The Michigan Sandbox Party, All rights reserved.

Questions? Contact: Sandbox Party Communications Director Teri Banas,