An education budget initiative from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer aims to offer free school breakfast and lunch to all 1.4 million public school students in Michigan.
LANSING—Under a proclamation from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, this week has officially been declared “School Breakfast Week” in Michigan. And while more than 70 million free school breakfasts were served to students last year, a much larger buffet could be on the way.
Whitmer last month proposed a $79 billion budget plan that aims to substantially invest in schools and public health, as well as cut taxes for the state’s retirees and low-income households. Democratic lawmakers ticked several of those items off that list last week.
Still on deck: A historic education investment that would deposit $19 billion into the state’s School Aid Fund and include a 5% increase in per-pupil funding for schools. The plan also includes investing $300 million to fund a universal pre-K program that would provide free preschool, hiring more teachers, and funding transportation for all 4-year-old students.
And, perhaps most notably during School Breakfast Week, an additional $160 million investment that would make Michigan the fourth state in the country to provide free breakfast and lunch for all students—which Whitmer said would save families an average of $850 annually.
“It’s hard for kids to learn on an empty stomach,” Whitmer said in a statement that announced the Breakfast Week proclamation. “Every student should be able to start their day with a nutritious meal so they can stay energized throughout the day and focus on class.”
Meals served in public schools must adhere to rigorous nutritional standards. And research shows that children who eat breakfast before school are more likely to reach higher levels of achievement in reading and math, perform better on assessments, have increased memory and concentration, and maintain a healthy weight, according to a statement from Whitmer’s office.
The National School Breakfast Program was established in 1975 to provide low-income children with morning meals—and in 1989, the first National School Breakfast Week was launched to help raise the awareness of the availability of free school breakfasts across the country.
Also included in Whitmer’s education budget proposal:
- $900 million for a new “rainy day” fund to help cover schools’ future budgetary needs
- $618 million for school safety programs and investments in student mental health supports
- $614 million to support general school operations—boosting per-pupil funding provided to local school districts by an additional $458 for a total record-high of $9,608 per student
- $442 million to help students catch up on reading with newly expanded literacy programs
- $300 million for tutoring to help students catch up on pandemic-related learning losses
- $257 million to help provide universal preschool to all 4-year-old kids in Michigan
- $195 million to support aspiring teachers and expand retention programs at local schools
- $150 million to help school districts modernize their bus fleets by switching to electric vehicles
READ MORE: Whitmer Budget Plan Prioritizes Tax Cuts and School Funding