Educator: Whitmer's Pre-K for All plan a 'huge step' for Michigan families

Wednesday night, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled her plan to make pre-k education free for all families in the state - a move she's been trying to make happen since she was first nominated.

Whitmer's 2023 State of the State focused on three major pushes: stricter gun laws, tax cuts, and free pre-k education. And she could see it become a reality with Democrats taking full control of the state government for the first time in decades. The move could save families about $10,000 in childcare costs.

"Tonight let’s talk about what we can do and where we are going together, we are eager to chase our bright future with hustle and grit," Whitmer said Wednesday night while introducing her plan.

Whitmer has pushed to make universal pre-k education available to all 4-year-olds across the state since day one in office. That was five years ago and she's still pushing to make it happen.

She'll have the support of the state house and senate as well as many educators. Birmingham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Embekka Roberson said it will help students be better prepared for their future education.

"Having all students have access to it I think is really beneficial," Roberson said. "Students are starting to learn their sounds their phonetic awareness and having that with a certified teacher allows students to be able to enter into a kindergarten program well-prepared."

Dr. Roberson said a proposal like this one is a huge step towards leveling the playing field for Michigan families.

"There are a lot of families who are just working families, and they just cannot afford that so this will allow them to have that access to high-quality preschool programming," Roberson said.

The investment also will have the backing of the Biden Administration. The President's trillion-dollar social spending package offers funding for free pre-k. That said, states still have to bare some responsibility.

Currently, only nine states offer universal pre-k policies.

"Having to pay for a high-quality preschool program is a hardship, and so having the governor and the state dept of education say that this is a priority allows those students to have that access," Roberson said.

Michigan has a program in place already in the Great Start Readiness Program, but it's limited. It's specifically designed to help low-income families.

"We know students graduate more when they have access to quality early learning, we also know that our students need less intervention," Roberson said.

If Whitmer's plan happens, the governor's office said it would take a four-year approach to phase in and would be available for all families.