Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

How much would taxpayers save if one more at-risk child in Detroit entered kindergarten ready to succeed in school? This is the question that the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation asked Wilder Research to investigate. The answer is $100,000.

“About 67% of the ‘one-child dividend’ cuts state government expenses, largely through reduced costs in criminal justice, public assistance and child care subsidies,” according to Fisher Foundation news release on their their recent report.  “Another 29% results in social savings, including reduced costs to crime victims and increased productivity of employed parents. The remaining 3% goes to schools in the form of reduced special education and grade repetition costs.”

Researchers also looked at Michigan children overall and estimated more than $39,000 saved for each additional at-risk child starting school kindergarten ready, “reflecting less costly lifetime education, social service and criminal justice expenditures.”

“Using this new metric,” the news release states, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation estimates that taxpayers would see a $7.2 million dividend, or savings, for every 1% gain in school readiness among Detroit’s estimated 7,200 kindergarteners. Statewide, every 1% improvement in school readiness among Michigan’s estimated 140,000 kindergarten students would result in a $55.3 million dividend to the state’s budget.”

Researchers gathered data on graduation, expenditures, poverty, crime and other factors for Detroit and the state of Michigan. They then used data from longitudinal studies on the effects of high-quality early education to calculate the estimated taxpayer savings. They did not include the increase in lifetime earnings the school-ready child might enjoy – and with it the increased tax revenues for government coffers.

The report’s findings resonate beyond Detroit and Michigan. “Investing in school readiness,” it concludes, “produces an educated and skilled workforce and social returns with substantial economic value.”