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Expanding early childhood education is costly but beneficial

State lawmakers including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer may be on to something in pursuing the goal of extending free pre-K to more Michigan families by 2027.

Whitmer’s plan, which has enjoyed a modest measure of bi-partisan support, would make families with incomes up to 400% of the federal poverty level eligible for the program.

The expansion wouldn’t be cheap, sporting a $254.6 million increase in state funding, according to the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potentials’ Pre-K for All implementation brief.

If the income eligibility cap is removed, all families in the state would become eligible to enroll in Pre-K for All by fall 2024, according to the brief.

Rep. John Fitzgerald, D-Wyoming, who supports the initiative, said Michigan’s budget “should be a reflection of the priority of Michiganders.”

The state is “making sure that we have the ample workforce, space and resources necessary to make sure that these youngest students would have the support that they need,” said Fitzgerald. “We want to prioritize life-long learning,” he said.

Currently, around 49,000 4-year-olds are enrolled in the state’s publicly funded learning settings.

The state would need to enroll an additional 32,000 children to meet its goal of 75% of eligible children participating.

That would require at least 1,700 more lead teachers, 3,400 more associate teachers and 1,700 more classroom spaces, according to the department’s implementation brief.

Pre-K for All is an intriguing proposition with a huge upside. Weighing it down, of course, is the cost, which we hope can be lowered because giving kids an early start in their education is a great way to improve outcomes.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette

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