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Whitmer's call for pre-K for all 4-year-olds a relief to parents

The Macomb Daily logo The Macomb Daily 1/25/2023 Gina Joseph, The Macomb Daily, Mount Clemens, Mich.

Jan. 25—News of pre-kindergarten for every little Michigander was welcome news to many Wednesday.

Parents of local children were cheering the news Gov. Gretchen Whitmer planned to unveil a proposal calling for access to prekindergarten education for all 4-year-olds during Wednesday's State of the State Address.

"I think it's awesome that she's pushing forward on this," said Tommy Barnes who runs the Cairns Community Center in Mount Clemens. "I'm holding my grandson now so my daughter can go to work."

The idea is not new.

Parents have been pining for the option for years. In fact many of their children are now the parents who would benefit from the program Whitmer has talked about since she first ran for governor in 2018.

Michigan's Great Start Readiness Program covering at-risk children of low-income families has proven to be successful but many working families, who not eligible for the program, are having to cover the cost of their child's education.

And it's not cheap.

"We're paying $1,200 a month," said Karl Haye, a small business owner who works with Barnes at the Cairns Community Center, which provides support for parents in a number of ways including after school recreational programs.

Both Haye and his wife work during the day but since he owns his own business he's able to watch their daughter Ana-Lea, 3, most of the time. However, she'll be turning 4 in June and while she is very advanced for her age she's always been around adults.

"I would definitely put her into a preschool program," Haye said, as it would allow her to advance further and give her time around children her own age.

Whitmer's proposal would ensure all 110,000 of the state's 4-year-olds can attend prekindergarten, which would save families on average about $10,000 in childcare costs, according to a statement from the governor's office.

"Every parent knows an early start is critical to their child's future," Whitmer said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Parents awaiting the relief would see the plan implemented over the next four years. While the cost of the plan was not provided, it's expected to be part of Michigan's budget surplus, which is projected to reach $9.2 billion by next fall, with $4.1 billion in the school aid fund.

"I think it's about time," said Haye, noting that it's not just about helping parents who are already struggling with so many costs. It's also about providing Michigan's future with the fundamentals they need to succeed.

"The earlier we can get them started the better," Haye said.

AP contributed to this report.

(c)2023 The Macomb Daily, Mount Clemens, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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