Pre-K essential for Detroit kids

We must get away from the zero-sum frame of looking at children. It pops up repeatedly in our public discourse, most recently in Thursday’s opinion by Katharine B. Stevens, “Michigan should spend new federal funds on child care – not universal pre-K, Feb. 27.”

Universal Pre-K is an idea Detroit needs to act on. Stevens is not wrong to suggest that supporting children ages 0-3 with high-quality child care is important. But her underlying message that we focus energy and dollars on one age group while ignoring another misses the point. We can – and must – support the continuum of children.

Quality early care is one aspect of what ensures children reach school primed and ready to learn. Access to health care, food, healthy living spaces, all matter, too. And as responsible adults, we must recognize that continuing to debate whether age A is more important than age B is dangerous in that it suggests there’s a real choice to be made.

Detroiters expect more. As co-chairs of the Hope Starts Here Stewardship Board, whose members endorse Mayor Duggan’s plan for Universal Pre-K, we advocate a comprehensive approach that’s funded from cradle to career.

Thousands of Detroiters created a blueprint for Detroit’s early childhood future, which launched in 2017 and highlighted needed investments in early childhood. Detroiters called for “new ways to fund Detroit’s early childhood system,” and Universal Pre-K is one source of funding on a path to a more coherent, integrated early childhood system for all children.

As a recent State of Babies report shows, Detroit is failing to produce strong health outcomes for its youngest residents. Good universal Pre-K addresses this head on.

It’s irresponsible to give up because there’s a quality gap in current childcare in the city. Our responsibility is to improve quality and increase access to these programs for the kids that need it most.

The Mayor’s efforts, along with those of all involved with Hope Starts Here, aim to do exactly that.

This is the time for Detroit to work together, so that all children are given the supports and access they need to be ready for kindergarten. Pre-K is an inseparable component of that. Making it universal, so every child can benefit, should be our goal.

Rip Rapson, President & CEO

The Kresge Foundation 

La June Montgomery Tabron, President & CEO

W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Pensions should bear tax burden

The current plan of Gov. Whitmer and Michigan's legislature to exempt public pensions from being taxed is a slap in the face for most Michigan citizens. Tax policy should not carve out a special deal for certain retirees based on their source of income. This plan is a confluence of Democrats who want to give public employee unions a gift, and Republicans who never saw a tax they didn't want to cut. 

Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, is quoted saying he wants to help some of our most vulnerable residents on fixed incomes. He's not being honest. Our most financially vulnerable retirees don't receive pensions, and many are forced to continue working throughout their retirement years.

Our state government should treat everyone fairly and not favor some at the expense of others. If you want to give low income people a tax break, then give that tax break to everyone according to their income level.

Michael Schneider

Bloomfield Township

LGBTQ community deserves civil rights

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer talked in her State of the State address about the need to expand Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, I was elated.

Elliott-Larsen, passed in 1976, prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. Additionally, the act strengthened the role of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

As director of the Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity Department for the City of Detroit, I strongly urge the state House of Representatives and Senate to end this conversation once and for all and add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.

Last year, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission said that it would take complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding the commission’s interpretation of Elliott-Larsen. This move swiftly prompted then-Attorney General Bill Schuette to issue a rebuke, stating that the commission was acting beyond its authority to interpret the law in that way.

The commission has continued progressively pushing for rights. Commissioners even created guidelines for municipalities looking to create their own ordinances banning discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

It’s been 40 years since Detroit created an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 11 years since the city amended that ordinance to include gender identity as a protected class. It’s about time that the State of Michigan does the same.

Although the state has been conflicted on these issues, with the election of a Democratic governor and attorney general, it is now in position to do the right thing. This is not an issue of partisan politics or even religious freedoms. Every human deserves access to housing, education, employment and public accommodations without being discriminated against.

It is time for Michigan to once again follow Detroit’s lead.

It’s 2019, and discrimination against LGBTQ persons is still legal in Michigan. I agree with Gov. Whitmer. It’s time to fix the damn Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

Charity Dean, director

Department of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity

City of Detroit

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