Whitmer calls for free pre-K statewide
FLINT, Mich. (WNEM) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for free pre-kindergarten across the state in her State of the State Address on Wednesday night.
Whitmer said the policy would save families an average of $10,000 per year. She has pushed the idea since she first ran for governor.
Sarah Zyburt, the vice president of advocacy and advancement at the Voices for Children Advocacy Center in Flint, said the plan would go beyond the classroom.
“This will be huge for parents. As we learned during the pandemic, so many parents are reliant on center-based childcare and school to take care of their children while they’re working, while they’re in school, and universalizing preschool is a really important step in making sure the most vulnerable families in Michigan have access to this care,” Zyburt said.
However, Zyburt said that doesn’t compare to the benefits children will have from being in pre-K. She said Michigan test scores have trended downward since before the pandemic, and engaging kids before kindergarten makes a big difference.
“The sooner we have children in preschool programming, a huge focus there is literacy. And not only literacy in the classroom but those children are being encouraged to read at home,” Zyburt said.
In addition to preparing kids for school, Zyburt said pre-K helps prepare them for life.
“There are huge benefits for socialization,” Zyburt said. “Being able to be around children their own age is really important, and it’s one of the things a kindergarten teacher or early elementary teacher will tell you. They can usually tell people who have been in a center base setting and kids who haven’t.”
Zyburt said free pre-K for all would remove the stigma associated with programs like the Great Start Readiness Program.
“Those programs may be well known, but families have the perception that they are only available to low-income individuals,” Zyburt said. “When you open it up like this it means that everyone can come to understand this is for them.”
The governor’s office said the plan would be implemented over the next four years. The total cost is not yet known.
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