Universal preschool for 4-year-olds and the need for a statewide tutoring program to help Michigan’s students get back on track after COVID-19 were two signature education proposals highlighted in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2023 State of the State Address. 

Gov. Whitmer delivered her fifth State of the State Address last week, marking her first time delivering the speech in-person since the beginning of the pandemic.  

The first education proposal she highlighted was the MI Kids Back on Track program. This program would increase state funding to provide tutoring, after-school programs, and other extended learning opportunities for those students who have experienced unfinished learning over the past two years.   

The Education Trust-Midwest celebrated Gov. Whitmer’s focus on investing in the expansion of tutoring opportunities, especially for students who are the most underserved.  

Research is clear that targeted intensive tutoring is among the most effective ways for students to accelerate their learning,” said Amber Arellano, executive director of The Education Trust-Midwest.  “We look forward to seeing details of the administration’s proposal and urge policymakers to ensure the state provides leadership for best practices, strong statewide implementation, and effective use of state dollars.”  

For full educational recovery, Michigan also needs to advance a comprehensive educational improvement agenda as our organization’s recently released Opportunity Ten agenda outlines. The state needs to invest with urgency and transform its public education system in ways that will truly make a difference for all children. This transformation should include creating a fair school funding system coupled with greater transparency and accountability for spending and student outcomes; access to rigorous coursework for all students; and deeper work on educator recruitment, retention and support.  

Gov. Whitmer also outlined a proposal to provide universal preschool for all 4-year-olds by expanding the Great Start Readiness Program. The Governor noted this will not only create more equal access to quality early childhood education but will also save Michigan families significant money. She set a goal of reaching full access by the end of her term in 2026. 

“We’re at a critical moment. As we highlighted in our recent 2023 State of Michigan Education Report, Beyond the Pandemic, Michigan student performance is falling behind other states, building upon longstanding opportunity gaps,” Arellano said. “That’s why the Whitmer administration’s interest in investing more deeply in educational recovery and in early childhood not only makes good sense but makes particularly good sense for this moment in history.   

“We applaud the Governor’s leadership in this area, and we look forward to working with her and legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle in partnership to ensure all students have the opportunity to catch up and accelerate their learning,” Arellano said.    

Gov. Whitmer’s address also included a proposal to expand Michigan Reconnect by lowering the age of eligibility from 25 to 21. This program offers tuition-free pathways to degrees and certificates for those wishing to improve their job skills by attending community college. Lowering the age of eligibility will expand this opportunity for thousands of Michigan adults.  

The Governor also spoke on continuing to fix the roads, addressing climate change, increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit, and repealing the pension tax. You can read her entire speech here.