Whitmer: 22,000 more children can enroll in early education – Monroe Evening News

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her plan to fund preschool education to ensure all eligible children in Michigan have access to high-quality, affordable early education opportunities that prepare them for success.

The Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), the state-funded preschool program for four-year-old children, has not been able to meet demand and currently only 66 percent of eligible children statewide are served by GSRP or federal Head Start programs. The plan announced today would increase funding for GSRP to ensure eligible 4-year-olds are served. 

“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,” Whitmer said. “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 work day knowing that their children are learning in a safe and productive environment.” 

GSRP is a proven preschool program that provides full- or part-day services to children from families at or below 250% of the poverty line, which is $66,250 for a family of four. In tandem with the Head Start program, GSRP currently provides preschool to 43,100 kids across Michigan. An estimated 65,400 students are eligible for the program. 

Investments in GSRP provide both immediate and long-term results, such as improved literacy performance by 3rd grade, narrowed achievement gaps between low and high-income students, and improved high school graduation rates. 

Whitmer’s plan proposes an additional $255 million in federal dollars and $150 million in state dollars, for a total of $405 million, for GSRP over the next three years. 

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).