The Kresge Foundation in Troy, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, and PNC Foundation, which has a metro Detroit office in Troy, are donating $2.5 million in joint grants to support improvements in early childhood education facilities in Detroit neighborhoods through an expansion of the Learning Spaces program.
The program is part of Hope Starts Here, a citywide engagement process that has created a framework for coordinated, high-quality early childhood systems for Detroit children focusing on facilities, maternal and child health, and more. Kresge and Kellogg helped launch Hope Starts Here in 2016.
“Extensive research indicates that the returns on investment in high-quality early education and school readiness initiatives are significant and long-lasting – impacting our children, our society and the health of our economy,” says Ric DeVore, regional president for Detroit and southeast Michigan at PNC. “Today’s grants recognize that early childcare providers, who establish a foundation for learning, need support to become stronger businesses with improved facilities that provide safe, nurturing and intellectually stimulating environments for the earliest years.”
The new grants support IFF, a Chicago-based nonprofit that serves as a lender, real estate consultant, and developer. Kresge backed an IFF pilot effort in 2015 to help early childcare providers by covering the cost of real estate consulting assistance, minor repairs, and other facility-related needs. Learning Spaces has since expanded through support from other foundations, including Kellogg, which granted the organization $1.5 million last year to make improvements to facilities designed to support brain development among attending children, decrease environmental hazards, and stabilize enrollment.
“Efficient lighting, upgraded heating/cooling, better security, new playgrounds – these all contribute to high-quality facilities for young children to learn and grow,” says Monica Duncan, director of early childhood education at IFF. “But tackling facility repairs and renovations can be overwhelming for smaller providers that have few staff, small budgets, and little time to request grant funding. That’s why our Learning Spaces program is such a game-changer for providers who care about quality.”
Kellogg’s additional $500,000 investment in Learning Spaces continues to target 10-12 home-based and center-based licensed early childhood education providers operating across Detroit. In 2015, Kellogg provided funding to IFF to create a facilities assessment and renovation program to address and increase quality in the near term for providers.
“Partnerships drive transformative change,” says La June Montgomery Tabron, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “This is the type of partnership we all envisioned together when we launched Hope Starts Here in 2017. With our collective support, we are putting Detroit’s young children and families first with improved access to safe and inspiring early learning environments. Quality early childhood education is critical to our children’s success.”
PNC’s $1 million grant will support IFF’s work in Detroit neighborhoods by improving the quality of early childhood education facilities, providing technical assistance, and addressing specific needs of providers who would like to offer extended or after-hours care. Funding will also support investments in the Brightmoor area, including home-based providers. PNC made the grant in support of PNC Grow Up Great, its bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children up to age 5 for success in school and life.
Kresge’s $1 million will help fund work citywide as well as specifically in the Livernois-McNichols area, where the foundation supports the comprehensive neighborhood development efforts alongside the Live6 Alliance, an economic development organization.
“We are all united in the belief that we can give Detroit children the education that meets their needs and provides the foundation for a more equitable city,” says Rip Rapson, president of Kresge. “That means both adequate resources for every level and working together to ensure that the early childhood sector understands the needs of K-12 and vice versa. Learning Spaces fills an enormous need for early childhood providers who want to upgrade their facilities to better serve children.”
IFF will take applications from both home-based and center-based care providers to improve the quality of their spaces, which may involve small repairs, larger upgrades, or equipment purchases. Applicants can seek up to $50,000.
Since 2016, IFF’s Learning Spaces program has invested $1.1 million in childcare facility improvements throughout the city, serving 1,525 children and creating 106 new slots in the process.
Kresge’s support for work in the Livernois-McNichols area also supplements the creation of its P-20 cradle-to-career campus at Marygrove College.
The funding announcement was made at the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference as part of a panel on aligning early childhood and K-12 education systems. The conference is taking place from Tuesday-Friday.