Governor Gretchen Whitmer calls for funding to expand free preschool programs

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 18:04:12-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — More 4-year-olds should have access to free preschool in Michigan. That is the message from Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-Michigan) and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan during a press conference in East Lansing.

They called on the legislature to provide funding to make it happen.

Governor Whitmer says the Great Lakes Readiness Preschool program is underfunded and, as a result, thousands of children are on waitlists. She wants that to change.

Whitmer stood with Democratic leaders and Mayor Duggan at the Michigan State University Childhood Development Lab to call on state lawmakers to invest just over $150 million in expanding the Great Start Readiness Program using federal and state dollars.

“The situation we have now with our state budget, we are in a position where we can make some investments. And this is the kind of transformative investment that will return immediate dividend but long term as well,” said Gov. Whitmer.

The Great Start Readiness Program provides free full-time preschool to 4-year-olds. It is income-based, available to families that make about 250% of the federal poverty level or less.

That’s about $66 thousand dollars for a family of four.

The governor says the goal is to make sure there are openings for about 17,000 more children. Duggan says he has been lobbying for years to expand availability in Detroit and came close last year with bipartisan support.

“We were all set. It was going to go for sure and then COVID hit and blew the state budget apart, but it wasn’t for a lack of commitment on the part of both democrats and republicans,” said Mayor Duggan.

If your child is on a waitlist to get in preschool and you are wondering when this could become a reality, know at this point the governor is asking for funding. There is a lot of work to be done still.

“It is going to require the training of teachers, the building of classrooms, but this is a bit of a process. The first step in the process is getting the dollars so we can get the teachers trained and the classrooms built out,” said House Democratic Leader Donna Lasinski (D- Scio Township).

Right now the state legislature is negotiating the budget for next year. The purpose of the press conference is to send a message this is one of the governor’s priorities.