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Whitmer’s preschool plan includes more money to hire teachers


LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking lawmakers for $306 million to expand the state’s free preschool program, hire more teachers and fund student transportation as part of it insist on a universal pre-K system.

A plan Whitmer will formally present to her on Wednesday Presentation of the executive budgetcalls for $73 million to add up to 5,600 4-year-olds to the Great Start Readiness Program and allow more families to access free preschool, according to a plan presented to Bridge Michigan by the governor’s office.

Additional costs will help suppliers eliminate the shortage of teachersincrease transportation options and move to five-day preschool programs, which experts say are there obstacles that the state must overcome make the program universal within the next four years, as Whitmer suggested in her recent State State address.

Enrollment in Michigan’s state-funded preschool program is still recovering from a decline during the pandemic, with about 36,000 of its 60,000 spots filled last year. But Whitmer said last month she wants to ensure all 110,000 Michigan 4-year-olds can enroll by the time she leaves office in 2027.

Under the governor’s new budget proposal, 4-year-olds would qualify for Great Start Readiness if they live in a household with adults who earn 300 percent or less of the federal poverty level, or about $79,000 for a family of four.

That would be above the current threshold of 250 percent, and in some cases families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level could also qualify, Whitmer’s office said.

As Bridge Michigan reported last week, experts and educators say preschool is one-size-fits-all good for kids and the economy. A year of child care now costs nearly $11,000 a year in Michigan, which experts say is keeping some parents from working.

But creating an effective universal program will require hiring teachers to fill classrooms, increasing transportation funding and expanding offerings to make the program more competitive with kindergarten or developmental kindergarten, Superintendent Michael Rice previously told Bridge Michigan.

Whitmer’s budget proposal begins to address each of these potential obstacles.

It includes $50 million in one-time spending to help school districts hire new teachers and early childhood professionals. The governor is also calling for $30 million in permanent funding to create a new tax credit of up to $30,000 for caregivers and child care professionals.

“We need to make sure our early childhood educators feel supported to care for their children and families while they make so many sacrifices for ours,” Whitmer said in a statement, calling them “critically important to empower and help our youngest Michiganders on the right path. for long-term success.”

While Democrats currently control both houses of the Michigan Legislature, their slim majority means the governor will seek bipartisan support for his preschool proposals. GOP leaders have supported Great Start Readiness in the past, but last month questioned the cost and benefits make it universal.

Whitmer’s plan includes $50 million in one-time funding for startup grants, which her office says will help providers open up to 2,000 new classrooms, expanding the availability of preschool across the state.

She is also asking lawmakers for $75 million in one-time funding to help preschool programs switch to a five-day-a-week schedule instead of four.

The plan also includes $18 million in ongoing funding to support transportation for preschool students, as well as $10 million in one-time funding for the Outreach Program to encourage parents to sign up.

Whitmer is set to present his full executive budget proposal Wednesday in an 11 a.m. presentation during a joint House-Senate Appropriations Committee meeting.

Return to Bridge Michigan for more information.

Jonathan Osting is a reporter for Bridge Michigan. You can contact him at joosting@bridgemi.com.

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