LANSING (AP) - As many as 16,000 more 4-year-olds will be able to attend preschool in Michigan this fall, thanks to a big boost in the state's early education budget.
Michigan's $109 million early education budget paid for about 32,000 children last school year. This year's $174 million budget covers about 48,000 children. The state provides free preschool for children from moderate- and low-income families.
The cutoff is about $39,000 for a parent with one child and about $59,000 for a family of four, with positions going first to the poorest children.
Gov. Rick Snyder plans to ask for a $65 million increase in funding in the upcoming budget as well, which would take preschool enrollment to 66,000. President Barack Obama has proposed that public preschool be available for all 4-year-olds from low-income families.
Good quality preschool programs help children learn to read before third grade, which is a key marker of students' future success, said Wilma Taylor-Costen, assistant superintendent for academics in the Detroit Public Schools.
"It's a life-changer," Taylor-Costen told The Detroit News (http://bit.ly/1auqkKB ). "It lays a foundation for growth and development. They learn how to make decisions."
The Detroit district is adding about 500 spots for preschool-age children this year. The district said it has 215 preschool classrooms at 70 schools with a capacity for 3,530 children.
Preschool curriculum includes knowledge of letters and numbers. Field trips, classroom visits from professionals and hands-on projects are all part of the full day of preschool. Children also have meals and rest time.
"It's not day care. We are learning. We are in school and we are learning," said Detroit preschool teacher Andrea Posky.
The Madison District Public Schools in the Detroit suburb of Madison Heights expanded its pre-kindergarten program from one classroom to three this year. The district is working on filling a fourth, Superintendent Randy Speck said.
"We have 64 kids. Last year we had 16. That change was totally market driven. We filled 16 new spots and asked for another 16. We filled those too. There was a need," Speck said. "That's our next group of kindergarteners."