Whitmer names acting director of new education department

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reads to a classroom for Reading Month. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

By Michigan Advance

December 1, 2023


MICHIGAN—Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new education department launched Friday with the goal of equipping every child in the state to “make it in Michigan” by creating support for affordable and quality educational options and connecting students to career options.

Whitmer placed at the helm of the Michigan Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential (MiLEAP) program Michelle Richard, who had served as her senior education adviser. Richard starts as acting director Friday. Whitmer issued a news release Friday expressing her confidence in Richard, a mom and former elementary school teacher, for the role and enthusiasm for what the program could mean for supporting students to thrive.

“Every Michigander deserves a path to ‘make it in Michigan’ with strong, lifelong learning support and a path to a good job, but for too long, we have thought of education as just K-12,” Whitmer said. “We know that’s not good enough, which is why MiLEAP will tackle bold goals like expanding access to pre-K for all 4-year-olds, offering more affordable paths after graduation to get a higher education or skills training, and forging strong partnerships with our employers so they can get a good-paying, family-sustaining job.”

In the past, Richard worked on the state’s school aid budgets with the goal of investing in students by investing in educators and the infrastructure of the learning environment. Richard was instrumental in implementing programming to lower the cost of higher education and expanding opportunities, Whitmer’s office said in the news release from Friday.

“Under Governor Whitmer’s leadership, we’ve made child care easier to find, expanded access to free preK, lowered the cost of college, and helped thousands of Michiganders earn a skill certificate or college degree,” Richard said. “But we know there’s so much more to do. As a Michigander and a mom, I am excited to work with partners inside and outside of state government to build on this momentum and make Michigan the best place to raise a family.”

MiLEAP will be run by more than 300 staff members transferred from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), the Department of Education (MDE), Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) and Department of Treasury.

MiLEAP staff will be responsible for helping families access childcare, building community support for students with schools, and connecting students to financial aid resources and other supports to higher education opportunities. The plan is to take a K-12 and beyond approach supporting students at home and at school while they pursue an education and then helping them secure employment in-state when they’re ready, maintaining a goal of getting 60% of adults in the state a certificate or degree by 2030.

All 15 of Michigan’s public universities are interested in collaborating with the program to connect students to employment opportunities, Daniel J. Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said in the governor’s press release.

“Under Governor Whitmer’s leadership, and with bipartisan support, Michigan has witnessed a generational renaissance in its focus on and investment in boosting the state’s most vital economic metrics: educational attainment, college affordability, workforce talent, and business attraction and retention,” Hurley said.

And community colleges are looking forward to what MiLEAP will mean for creating pathways for all students to pursue opportunities such as dual-enrollment for high school students or participating in Michigan Reconnect, Brandy Johnson, president of the Michigan Community College Association, said in the governor’s press release.

“Michigan’s community colleges stand ready to work alongside MiLEAP and the Office of Higher Education to grow opportunities for students to enroll, persist, and attain certificates or degrees that lead to good paying jobs right here in our state,” Johnson said.

READ MORE: New state department to support Michigan students from cradle to career

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.




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