Gilchrist talks about taking the ‘worry’ out of early childhood education costs

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist reads to kids at Helping Hands Christian Learning Center in Lansing on March 6, 2024. (Anna Liz Nichols/Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

March 7, 2024


MICHIGAN—Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist stopped by Helping Hands Christian Learning Center in Lansing on Wednesday just before naptime to read “The Way I Feel” with pre-K children.

Afterward, he discussed with educators and media about how facilities like Helping Hands increase kids’ confidence and readiness for kindergarten. He also shared his excitement for the investment included in the governor’s proposed budget to offer free pre-K education for every 4-year-old in the state.

A parent of young children, Gilchrist said it’s reassuring to visit pre-K facilities and know the children there are not only beginning their education, but that they feel safe and are loved by providers.

“As parents, all we do is worry. We worry about what our kids are going to need and if we’re going to be able to meet their needs,” Gilchrist said, adding that it can be hard for parents of young kids to access affordable childcare, much less pre-K education, without financial sacrifice.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is touting her plan to deliver free pre-K for 4-year-olds in her Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget proposal as an investment into Michigan families that would allow parents to keep their jobs and not worry about childcare, saving them about $10,000 per child each year.

As part of her “Make it in Michigan” push to get more people to make their home in the state, Whitmer has released various proposals like free universal pre-K and free community college.

“Our job is to try to remove as many of those worries as we can, to create the conditions for access to health and wealth and success for all of our families,” Gilchrist said. “That starts with making sure that those families that are growing because they have welcomed children are able to do what they need to do for those kids to be successful.”

Setting kids up for success in school is the goal, Gilchrist added. He was joined at the center by state Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) and Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) acting Director Michelle Richard.

Michigan recently released data that high school graduation rates are on an upward trajectory, with 2023 being the second straight year that graduation rates increased. Data for students who graduated in four years shows that the class of 2023 had a 81.8% graduation rate, the second-highest in state history.

But kids experiencing homelessness and youth in foster care fall behind with the lowest graduation rates in the state. Only 58% of youth experiencing homelessness were able to graduate in four years in 2023 and 44% of youth in foster care were able to do the same.

Research from the University of Michigan examining pre-pandemic data found that Michigan students who have experienced homelessness were twice as likely to be suspended or expelled than other students. About one in 10 students will experience homelessness before they leave high school.

And that’s why the other big priority in the governor’s proposed budget is affordable housing, Gilchrist said, calling attention to the administration’s proposal to allocate $1.4 billion to build or rehabilitate around 10,000 homes in the state.

Children who experience housing issues or have to move around in the foster care system require a comprehensive approach from elected leaders in order to support them as they approach adulthood, Gilchrist said.

‘Our administration is certainly prioritizing having more affordable housing available so … you don’t have kids who are sleeping in cars or jumping from house to house,” Gilchrist said. “Our comprehensive investments in education, in out of school time programming that can give kids stuff to do and places to go, we think can help them navigate these things. Also kids who are participating in those kinds of programming, they are more likely to graduate and they’re more likely to find whatever that next chapter of their life is going to be.”

READ MORE: 8 Big Wins for Michigan Students: How the New State Budget is Investing in Public Schools

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




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