Kent County becomes the first county in Michigan to have a dedicated source of funding for early childhood

When the Ready by Five Early Childhood proposal was passed in November 2018, Kent County became the first county in Michigan to have a dedicated source of funding for early childhood services and programs.

The six-year millage will generate approximately $5.7 million each year and will provide dedicated funding for community-based early childhood programs that are proven to work, ensuring children and their families have access to vital services. All millage dollars will go through an independent audit and be reported to Kent County every year to ensure taxpayer funds are spent wisely and transparently.

“It’s in everyone’s best interest to invest in all Kent County children,” said Lew Chamberlin, co-chair of the First Steps Commission and owner of West Michigan Whitecaps. “We want to thank the entire Kent County community for supporting Kent County kids so they can start ahead and stay ahead. Thanks to Kent County voters, more young children across our community will be healthy and ready to learn.”

Studies show that a dollar invested in early childhood development saves $6 down the road with reduced costs for health care, education and prisons. The Ready by Early Childhood Proposal will:

  • Provide health and developmental screenings for all Kent County kids.
  • Support new parents so they can ensure their children are healthy and ready for kindergarten.
  • Increase access to high-quality early learning experiences that build a strong social, emotional and intellectual foundation for Kent County children.

“It’s clear that children who start ahead stay ahead and this dedicated source of funding will give Kent County kids a strong foundation for a bright future,” said Kate Pew Wolters, co-chair of the First Steps Commission. “We are grateful for the support of Kent County residents. This is a vital investment in young children across our community and we will now be able to detect health and learning issues early, making sure children are ready for the first day of kindergarten.”

A portion of the funding will be used to assure the effectiveness and accountability of early childhood programs, including data collection, evaluation, and quality improvement.