Here in Battle Creek, there’s nothing more important to us than the health and educational success of our children. That’s why the Battle Creek Community Foundation is working with our schools so that our kids can get a great education and the skills they need to achieve a bright future. And we remain ready to partner with our leaders, like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, to ensure every child can read by the end of the third grade.

Whitmer has taken many steps to raise our third grade reading proficiency levels. In her fiscal year 2021 budget, she included a $325 per pupil increase for Battle Creek Public Schools, and increased funding for schools across the state. She’s included funding for literacy and last year, she stuck to her promise to triple the number of Michigan’s literacy coaches. This is real progress, and we’re hopeful that the Legislature will do the right thing, get on board and pass this budget.

Battle Creek’s third grade reading proficiency level falls below the state average. We’re working to change that by helping ensure our students get the early education they need to read by the end of third grade. And we’re pleased to know that we have a partner in the governor’s office who is just as committed to getting it done as we are. That’s how we help our kids get on a path to success.

Our foundation is ready to work with all of our elected officials who want to expand resources for early education and get every child on a path to literacy. And we are disappointed by claims that Whitmer’s plan to help families navigate the third grade reading law will hurt our kids.

Instead of holding kids back and punishing them for not being able to read by the end of third grade, we should give them the resources they need to get there and the support our families need to make the best decision for their children in the first place.

Whitmer wants to ensure all parents have the opportunity to weigh in on a critical educational decision that will impact their children.

The Battle Creek Community Foundation is aware that children who cannot read by the third grade are four times less likely to graduate than students who can read. We also know that retention will disproportionately impact students of color, economically disadvantaged students, and students in urban districts. We must ensure that we aren’t unintentionally widening equity gaps instead of narrowing them, and that requires intentional outreach to parents to help them understand the options under the law and for what is in the best interest of their kids.

We’re proud of our collaborative efforts through Bearcat Health with Battle Creek Public Schools to work toward our shared vision to ensure that all students are socially and emotionally supported in school and ready to learn. We will continue to collaborate with our local districts to make sure Battle Creek can take advantage of every good resource that is made available, whether through public and or private sources. Investing in early literacy and partnering with families will provide the best opportunity to improve outcomes for our children.

Brenda Hunt is president and CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation. 

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