Michigan Resource Center Cost Study

Preschool children seated in a circle raising hands

The state of Michigan has 10 Great Start to Quality Resource Centers (RCs) across 11 regions. Each RC supports programs, providers, and families with child care resources. RCs have a prescribed statement of work (SOW) from the Michigan Department of Education, which specifies activities and goals but also provides space for RC staff to complete activities that meet the needs of their communities. 

RC activities include, but are not limited to, providing:

  • Professional development opportunities (including those required and those requested by providers); 
  • Quality improvement consultation; 
  • Technical assistance; 
  • Collaboration with the Great Start Collaborative and Great Start Parent Coalition, infant toddler learning communities and training; and
  • Assistance to unlicensed providers to initiate licensure; and 
  • Maintenance of an up-to-date and bilingual (where appropriate), comprehensive, lending library. 

They also act as a resource and referral agency for families and interact with families at a variety of outreach events. RCs are housed in various organizations, such as intermediate school districts and smaller community-based organizations like the United Way.

AIR's Cost Study of Michigan Resource Centers

To provide the Department with an estimate of the overall cost of performing the activities and goals outlined in each Resource Center’s statement of work, AIR designed and carried out a cost study.

Specifically, the goal of the cost study was to answer the following research questions:

  1. What is the annual overall estimated cost of performing the activities and goals outlined in each RC’s SOW?
  2. What is the range of costs for RCs to meet the goals and complete the activities in their SOW per licensed provider in their region?
  3. What is the range of the cost of additional resources needed (as a proportion of this fiscal year’s funding amount) for RCs to perform the activities and goals in their SOW?
  4. What percentage of this fiscal year’s budget and the cost of additional resources needed is personnel costs?
  5. How do RC directors and staff interpret their SOW and describe challenges around completing their SOW within their current budget?

“Early childhood people, like medical people, we work with our hearts. So, we tend to keep going.” —RC Director

Study Results

Results revealed that Resource Centers fulfill a variety of roles for the families and providers that they serve. In accordance with their statements of work, RCs support programs, providers, and families with child care resources, providing professional development, technical assistance, infant toddler learning communities, and so forth. RC directors and administrative staff feel that although the work in their SOWs is broken down by component, in reality the work is integrated and connected. Furthermore, they also feel that this is how they operate in their communities: being integrated and connected to families and providers and working to meet the needs of the diverse populations in the communities in which they serve.

RC leaders expressed concern over their budgets not being sufficient to help them best meet the goals and activities in their SOW, and this concern is further compounded by funding instability. They are particularly concerned about meeting the goals and activities in their SOWs when there are no ARPA supplements to their budgets. Many RC leaders stated that they braid and blend additional funding sources, beyond those provided by the Department, to meet the activities and goals of their SOWs. 

In terms of specific costs, we estimate the average overall estimated cost to perform the activities and goals outlined in each RC’s SOW and provided this amount to the Department. On average, the cost of the additional resources need by RCs is well above their current 2022–2023 budget allocations. 

These additional resources needed are largely driven by the need for additional personnel resources including coaches and other content-focused staff, as well as human resource and computer and technical support, and the fact that staff often work unpaid overtime to accomplish the SOW’s requirements. Each RC serves a different region of the state, and they have unique challenges that drive their work and funding needs. 

Additionally, AIR conducted focus groups with RC directors and Early Childhood Support Network directors to brainstorm how to develop possible funding structure options that aim to provide equitable distribution of state funds to RCs and to support each RC to successfully achieve the activities and goals outlined in their annual SOWs.