2/7/2023: An educational ‘pre-Promise’

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Early childhood education is getting a spotlight in Michigan. Kalamazoo city leaders are weighing whether and how to help. Also: The governor is proposing giving $180 rebates to every tax filer in Michigan. And the man who set a fire at a Kalamazoo abortion provider has been sentenced.

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A ‘pre-Promise’ for Kalamazoo

The subject of early childhood education was on the agenda during last night’s Kalamazoo city commission meeting. That follows Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s call last month for universal, free preschool for all 4-year-olds. Commissioners heard from a range of experts about whether and how the city could invest in expanded early childhood education. Tim Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, proposed a sort of “pre-Promise” to help gear up kids to make use of the Kalamazoo Promise. “Ultimately, this is about the future of our children and this community. And if we invest in our children, I think we will not regret it in the long run,” he said.

None of the speakers disagreed with that statement, but they differed on how far programs should go. Some want to expand education programming to all 3- and 4-year-olds, but Dr. Grace Lubwama, the CEO of YWCA Kalamazoo, said Kalamazoo needs universal childcare from birth to age 5, especially for low-income families. “The city has an opportunity to do something different,” she said.

Of course, it’s not as easy as just funding new programs. Schools already have a hard time finding enough teachers, and that wouldn’t get easier with expanded programming. Rachel Roberts, who leads Head Start for the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, said there is a “staffing crisis” due to inadequate pay. That’s caused increased waiting lists for the early childhood programs she leads. “In 2019, between Head Start and [Great Start Readiness Program], there was a total of 131 students on the waitlist. Today there are 292 children,” she said.

Commissioners aren’t ready to commit to any plan. Last night’s discussion was primarily meant for information gathering before the commission takes a deeper dive at a later meeting.

More News You Need To Know

Gov. proposes $180 rebates

Every tax filer in the state would get a check for $180 this year under a plan announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday. The proposal would cost the state about $800 million dollars – an amount the state can well afford thanks to a $9 billion budget surplus. Whitmer touted the rebates as a way to quickly provide relief to residents struggling with inflation. The rebate would only apply to tax filers, so married couples filing jointly would receive one check instead of two.

Republicans scoffed at the proposal, calling it inadequate. “Are you telling me this is tax relief? Have you ever been a taxpayer?” Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Hillsdale, wrote in a social media post. They suggest the one-time rebate is an attempt to avoid a permanent tax cut. Under a 2015 law, Michigan’s tax rate would automatically drop due to revenues outpacing inflation. Democrats have said they wouldn’t repeal that law, but could still avoid the reduction by decreasing revenues or otherwise diverting income before it hits the treasury. [Bridge Michigan]

Planned Parenthood arsonist sentenced to 5 years in prison

A Paw Paw man who started a fire at Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo last summer has been sentenced to five years in prison. Joshua Brereton, 25, pleaded guilty in October to one count of arson. That comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months in prison. The judge also sentenced him to two years of supervision once he is released, and he will have to pay more than $32,000 for the damage he caused. Investigators said Brereton bought torch fuel, a starter log, and a utility lighter at a Walmart just an hour before he started the fire at the abortion provider. U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Mark Totten called it an act of “political violence” and said the sentencing sends a message to others who might consider doing something similar. [WWMT]

County hires new finance chief

An old face will be returning to Kalamazoo County government. In press release, the county announced it is hiring Ryan Post as the director of finance. Post held a variety of financial positions in the Department of Health and Community Services over the course of ten years. He currently serves as the county administrator in Van Buren. Post will begin work on March 27.

Post joins the county in the middle of a difficult time. The county treasurer has been under fire for mismanaging finances. Last year, he failed to invest county funds, potentially costing the county hundreds of thousands of dollars. He also narrowly missed defaulting on a county loan and has faced criticism for not providing timely reports to county leaders. The county has since hired an outside firm to help clean up its finances.

Things To Do In Kalamazoo

Rookie Detectives: Alma’s Art – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
10:00AM 2/7

Government and Nonprofit Job Fair – WMU, Bernhard Center
10:00AM 2/7

Young, Gifted, and Black: The Timelessness of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” – Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
12:00PM 2/7

Kalamazoo Premier Chess Club – Urban Alliance
6:00PM 2/7

Trivia – Shakespeare’s Pub
7:00PM 2/7

Intellectual Freedom and the Rise of Banned Books: A Lecture with Dr. Emily Knox – WMU, Fetzer Center
7:00PM 2/7

Board Game Night – Main Street Pub, West Main
6:00PM 2/8

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra Presents Craft Music – Bell’s Eccentric Café
7:00PM 2/8

3 of a Kind – Hilton Garden Inn
7:00PM 2/8

Dooley Live – O’Duffy’s Pub
7:00PM 2/8

Happy Hour with Steve – The Park Club
4:30PM 2/9

The Great Leap – Farmers Alley Theatre
7:30pm 2/9-11, 2pm 2/12

Karaoke – Shakespeare’s Pub
8:30PM 2/9

Comedy Open Mic – Valhalla Kalamazoo
9:00PM 2/9

See more upcoming events here.

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