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KC Ready 4s’ origin is rooted in ISAAC’s social justice organizing

KC Ready 4s is celebrating their 10th anniversary!  Their website describes their origin in ISAAC’s social justice organizing process:

  • The goal of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s is to advance fully accessible, high-quality pre-kindergarten education for every 3 and 4-year-old in Kalamazoo County through collaborative leadership with public and private providers.
  • KC Ready 4s is a 501c3 non-profit that was formed in response to a 2008 meeting, where Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community (ISAAC) identified the critical community need for accessible, high quality pre-kindergarten for 4 year-olds. Learn more about our founding.
  • KC Ready 4s’ origin is rooted in the social justice organizing process that ISAAC uses to identify and address significant issues in our community.  …In early 2008, trained ISAAC volunteers listened to hundreds of people.  Those people most frequently mentioned six issues.  One issue was concern for the well-being of our youngest children and their support,
    safety, and preparation for life.

Some excerpts from the powerful KCReady4s Origin Story written by Rochelle Habeck & Denise Hartsough, members of the ISAAC Early Childhood and Education Task Force in 2008:

Given their vision and what they learn from interviews, ISAAC task forces formulate an “ask” that is specific, achievable, and in the hearts and minds of local residents. After considerable discussion, the Early Childhood and Education Task Force concluded that expanding access to high quality preschool would have the greatest and most certain benefit for our county. The Task Force determined that there was sufficient evidence and 3 public will to support this ambitious effort: that all 4-year-olds in Kalamazoo County will have access to high quality PreK.

Next the Task Force sought support for this ambitious ask from local officials and policy makers in the education system (KRESA Ron Fuller, KPS Dr. Rice, and all 8 other superintendents), in the early childhood system (GSC, CCRC, HS), in county administration and governance (County Commission), local foundations

(UW, KZCF), local business community (SWMF, CofC), the Upjohn Institute, and our area state legislators. The Task Force asked all these community leaders to commit to the “ask” and to have a representative serve on a planning committee to realize this aspiration.

We summarized the arguments:

  • Children who participate in high-quality preschool grow up to have higher earnings. For each $1 we invest in preschool, we get $4 in extra earnings in our economy.
  • Children who participate in high-quality preschool are less likely as teenagers or adults to become involved in crime. Among at-risk children, participating in high quality preschool reduces involvement in crime by 80%.
  • Children who participate in high quality preschool are more likely to graduate from high school. Among at-risk children, high quality preschool increases the chances of graduating from high school by one-third. Every additional high school dropout costs taxpayers $127,000 in reduced tax revenues and increased social costs.
  • Over 40% of Kalamazoo County 4-year-olds are not enrolled in high-quality preschool. Although 1700 Kalamazoo County 4-year-olds are in preschool, 1300 are not enrolled in preschool.

It was a win-win proposal. As one business leader pointed out:

If we projected out to 2025 with a 50% drop-out rate among significant proportions of the high risk students, with 1 in every 100 in prison at taxpayer expense, and with the number of workers retiring, we will not be able to sustain our current quality of life. All our children must be equipped to succeed in school and in our future workforce if our community is to compete in a global economy. Excellent school outcomes are vital to economic development. Creating a community expectation that every child is prepared for school success will help our county become a magnet for business and skilled workers.

See what happened next, at the ISAAC 2008 Public Meeting, in the KCReady4s Origin Story by Rochelle Habeck & Denise Hartsough.