Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is set to deliver her 2024 State of the State address 7 p.m. Wednesday, prompting Bridge Michigan to take a look back at progress toward the goals from the 2023 address.
You can read the full analysis by Bridge here. But several of the initiatives measured by Bridge align with priorities of TalentFirst. Some of the highlights:
Preschool for all
TalentFirst has long advocated for expansion of the state’s Great Start Readiness Program to ensure preschool access to all at-risk 4-year-olds. This is critical to ensure students enter kindergarten ready to learn.
The current state budget includes millions to support expansion, but it remains to be seen how many families will be able to take advantage. However, we have seen success regionally with the launch of PreK4All in Muskegon Public Schools and Muskegon Heights Public Schools, in partnership with Goodwill of West Michigan.
Meanwhile, we continue to advocate for statewide assessments for kindergarten readiness to help measure the effectiveness of GSRP and other preschool programs.
Increased child care funding
This also is something TalentFirst has emphasized for years. A lack of access to affordable, high-quality child care keeps many parents on the sidelines of the workforce. What's more, evidence shows early education plays an important role in childhood development.
TalentFirst successfully advocated for expansion of eligibility for child-care subsidies. And Bridge notes the total receiving subsidies jumped 41% from December 2021 to December 2023. However, TalentFirst also has successfully advocated for streamlining of regulations to reduce administrative burden and cost to providers.
And, in a landmark report last year, we documented how poverty-level wages are driving early child care educators from the workforce. The child care industry in Michigan faces structural challenges that must be addressed.
Tuition support for community college
Bridge rates this initiative from Whitmer’s speech last year as “incomplete,” and TalentFirst would agree.
The good news: Access to tuition-free postsecondary education and training support of Michigan Reconnect has temporarily expanded, allowing students as young as 21 to apply.
However, we still face multiple challenges to achieving the state’s target of Sixty by 30 — increasing the number of working-age adults with a skill certificate or college degree from 50.5% today to 60% by 2030.
Overcoming those challenges and enabling progress toward that goal was the reason for the launch by TalentFirst last year of the Michigan Center for Adult College Success.
Providing funds to cover the expense of tuition is a great start. But we will never reach our goals without deliberate improvements to the enrollment and — especially — the success rates of adult learners.
Compared to recent high school graduates, adult learners have far more complicated lives. Balancing family and work responsibilities can make it tough to focus time and energy on their education.
The Michigan Center for Adult College Success is working with postsecondary institutions across the state to develop and launch innovative initiatives to encourage the enrollment and success of adult learners.
See past State of the State addresses and watch a live stream of the 2024 address here.