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Early childhood education: Kresge pledges $20M to White House initiative

General Foundation News

Business, philanthropies and nonprofits invest in high-quality education for nation’s youngest individuals.

The Kresge Foundation has committed $20 million over five years to help ensure Detroit’s youngest children have access to high-quality early childhood education and are well prepared for school.

Today’s commitment is part of Invest in US, a national effort announced today by President Barack Obama at the White House Summit on Early Education. Corporations, foundations and nonprofit organizations have pledged $340 million so that children from birth to age 5 have easy access to and benefit from early education. The total amount continues to rise and new pledges – financial and otherwise – continue to be made.

Kresge’s commitment begins with support for the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative and the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund as well as Detroit Parent Network and Starfish Family Services. Starfish, for example, is working with partners to create 1,000 new Head Start openings for the city’s children annually.

“Kresge wants Detroit’s children – all children – to succeed in school and life,” says Rip Rapson, president and chief executive officer. “Investments in early childhood education are critically important to our youngest learners and their families. Well-prepared youngsters excel academically, are healthier and contribute more fully to society and the economic mainstream. Investing in young children holds the promise of transforming Detroit and its future.”

A range of other investments are or will be under consideration, Rapson says, from efforts to improve data collection and analysis about early childhood programs to working with hospitals to improve health care access starting at birth.

The Invest in US challenge was organized by the First Five Years Fund and its philanthropic partners. It is designed to catalyze broad, ongoing support for early childhood education.

Invest in US comes on the heels of growing public and private investment in early childhood development. In addition to today’s announcement of $340 million in private and nonprofit sector support, the federal departments of Education and Health and Human Services are announcing $750 million in new grants for early-learning programs.

Kresge will be working with a diverse group of community partners to set an early childhood agenda, says Wendy Jackson, deputy director of the foundation’s Detroit Program. “This is a crucial time in the city. This early childhood commitment is a key component of the Detroit Program, which works to foster green, healthy, active neighborhoods and a vibrant Woodward Corridor while also promoting arts and culture, a 21st-century regional transportation system and enhanced civic capacity.”

Earlier this year, Kresge in partnership with the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, announced creation of a $4.5 million fund to benefit Head Start programs in Detroit. The Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund will provide matching dollars over a three-year period to help four Head Start organizations in the city.

Kresge’s new commitment includes $500,000 to the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan to continue support of the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund.

Kresge also recently made grants of $150,000 to support the Detroit Parent Network to help increase parental involvement in schools and communities, and $1 million to Inkster-based Starfish Family Services to launch Thrive by Five Detroit.

Starfish is collaborating with three other groups – Development Centers Inc., Focus HOPE and Southwest Counseling Solutions – to create Thrive by Five. It will provide child-development services for an additional 1,000 Detroit children from birth to age 5.

“These are just the beginning of a years-long commitment working with partners strategically to close a persistent academic-achievement gap,” Jackson adds.

Across the nation, Invest in US commitments are intended to:

  • Strengthen public systems at the federal, state and local levels to ensure continuous quality improvements in parental education, home visiting, Early Head Start, quality child care, Head Start and preschool programs;
  • Integrate health and developmental screenings with early learning to provide parents with the information they need to optimize their child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development;
  • Improve the training, continuing education, professional development and living wages of early childhood educators;
  • Support greater access to evidence-based programs that support parents and families in fostering their children’s development; and
  • Promote and share ongoing program innovation and improvement, especially for those programs supporting parents and informal caregivers.

A full list of commitments announced today can be found at

Supporters tapped for the summit extend considerably beyond government, businesses and the nonprofit sector. The summit includes the debut of celebrity videos by Shakira (English and Spanish), Jennifer Garner, John Legend and Julianne Moore.