WATCH: Whitmer announces investment in early education

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference in East Lansing on Tuesday, to announce her plan to fund preschool education.

The announcement specifically focused on adding an additional $255 million in federal dollars and $150 million in state dollars, for a total of $405 million, for the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) over the next three years. 

The goal of the GSRP is to help 4-year-old children with factors that may place them at risk of educational failure.  The program is administered by the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Great Start.  Funding is allocated to each intermediate school district to administer the program locally.

“We have a unique opportunity right now to make the type of investments in early education and preschool that will pay massive dividends by improving health, educational, and social outcomes for our children decades down the line,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Parents across our state are aware of the importance of early education and now we have to seize this chance to eliminate waitlists for eligible children.  The investments announced today provide access to all eligible children and will help narrow the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students. As we put Michigan back to work, parents can go about their workday knowing that their children are learning in a safe and productive environment.” 

The plan also calls for an additional $50 million in federal funds to support a successful expansion, such as: 

  • Ensuring an adequate supply of providers based on regional demands through grants to providers (an estimated 1,500 additional classrooms may be needed, at $15,000 per classroom, costs would be $22.5 million) 
  • Ensuring additional access to transportation for early education with $15 million in addition to the $10 million currently dedicated to transportation.  
  • Providing scholarships to early educators to ensure teaching staff are properly credentialed as well as providing curriculum purchasing and training grants to ensure all programs are using state-recommended, research-based material ($7 million).  
  • Expanding outreach efforts to increase parental awareness of the availability of free programs in their area and developing web resources to connect parents to all programs in their area ($5.5 million).  

Whitmer was joined by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich, Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski, East Lansing Mayor Mike Duggan, Laurie Linscott, Executive Director of MSU Child Development Labs, and Michigan State director of the American Association of Retired Persons Paula Cunningham.

“There is bipartisan support to expand preschool access for kids across Michigan and I am pleased we can make this investment,” said State Budget Director David Massaron. “I think it’s important to note that this is a plan with identified resources to ensure we can sustain full access into the future. The fact that this is not just a one-time investment for one year but rather a plan that incorporates continued investment in future years is extremely exciting.”  

“Research shows that the earlier we start investing in kids, the better the outcomes will be in education and in life,” said Jeff Donofrio, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “Investments in programs like GSRP not only will improve the lives of thousands of Michigan kids, it also will help many parents return to the workforce to build family-sustaining careers.”   

“There is no better investment than our children,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint). “As a former teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the long-term benefits of a quality preschool education, and that’s why I am so glad that Governor Whitmer is making the Great Start Readiness Program available to more of Michigan’s kids. Her plan cuts down the financial and logistical barriers that currently stand between families and preschool, ensuring that more children start their education on the right foot.” 

“Every parent wants the best for their child, starting with an opportunity to attend a high-quality preschool,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D- Scio Township). “For many families, this is out of reach. Children who start school behind, rarely end up ahead. I have been passionate about the need for accessible, high-quality preschool education for all since my work over a decade ago at the Great Start Collaborative. I am proud to stand with Governor Whitmer to support this historic proposed investment in the future of our children and state.” 

“The Child Development Laboratories is grateful Governor Whitmer understands the critical importance of high-quality early care and education programs for children and families in Michigan,” said Laurie Linscott, Director of Michigan State University Child Development Laboratories. “Too many families don’t have the resources to access early childhood education, and Governor Whitmer’s work to make it affordable and accessible for so many students will have innumerable positive effects on the future of our state. It is an exciting time in the field as the value of this work is becoming understood.” 

“Helping people age with grace and dignity and living their best lives is some of the most important work we can do, but it all starts here with early childhood education,” said Paula D. Cunningham, State Director of AARP Michigan. “This is step one in preparing a person to achieve success, to reaching their fullest potential. Everyone deserves the same opportunities for a Great Start, to begin that lifelong journey. Access to quality education and quality of life should start at the cradle and end at the grave.” 

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