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Whitmer on right track in youth education proposal

John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” If that’s the case, it’s never too early to get started, and our state is now taking steps to establish an early foundation.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday proposed expanding government-funded preschool to 22,000 eligible but unenrolled 4-year-olds in Michigan, saying too many cannot access an “incredible opportunity” because of inadequate funding, as reported by The Associated Press.

The expansion is designed to ensure all 65,400 eligible kids can attend either through the federal Head Start program or the state’s Great Start Readiness Program, which covers at-risk kids whose families earn up to 250% of the federal poverty level. It would be funded for three years, with an infusion of $250 million in federal coronavirus relief aid and $155 million in state dollars.

Projected school aid fund growth would make permanent the expansion in the fourth year and beyond, according to the governor’s office. The Republican-led Legislature would need to OK the spending. Past expansions have garnered bipartisan support.

“Today, too many eligible kids are stuck on wait lists and unable to access the opportunity because of a lack of funding. That’s just not acceptable,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said during a news conference at the Michigan State University Child Development Laboratories. “Investments in preschool pay massive dividends down the line.”

While her administration wants the funding to cover as many as 22,300 more children, it estimates 17,400 would enroll if the plan was fully implemented. The governor also requested $50 million to give grants to child care providers to add 1,500 classrooms, provide transportation, award scholarships to early educators and expand parents’ awareness of free preschool.

“There is nothing we could do more to give our children a better start to their education than as a 4-year-old to have full-day pre-K,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “The amount of nurturing and education that goes on in a quality pre-K is life-changing.”

We couldn’t agree more. With everything our world is facing in the future, our youth will need the skills to take on the obstacles they will inevitably need to tackle, and this is a great step in ensuring that they will have the necessary tools to do so. We don’t see this as a partisan issue, but one that will benefit all of Michigan’s youth moving forward.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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