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Great Work Expected to Continue in Early Childhood Education with Transfer

LANSING – State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice expects that the outstanding work accomplished by the employees of the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start will continue after that office’s transfer to the newly created Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Achievement, and Potential (MiLEAP).

Through Executive Order 2023-6 issued today by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the Office of Great Start (OGS) is being transferred after its 12-year existence in the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) – one of four state departments from which offices and functions will be transferred to create MiLEAP.

“I respect the governor’s constitutional authority to restructure state government,” Dr. Rice said. “Our goal at MDE is to work every day to maximally benefit Michigan children and families. I’ve been assured that this transfer will carry on that commitment, including to our four-year-olds in the state’s GSRP pre-school program, top ranked in the country.”

Created through executive order in 2011 to work in the Michigan Department of Education, the Office of Great Start has built a foundation of success with programs, supports, and investments focused on serving Michigan’s children and families.

“The team in our Office of Great Start has done terrific work over the past 12 years, and we appreciate its tenacity in serving children pre-pandemic, during the pandemic, and post-pandemic,” Dr. Rice said. “I am proud of the team’s accomplishments and those of the department as a whole in working with partners across the state under very challenging circumstances.”

Included among the accomplishments of the OGS team are:

  • Building and expanding a Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) that has consistently ranked first nationally in early childhood education quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Michigan is now serving over 38,000 children annually and will continue to grow that number as Michigan moves toward the governor’s goal of universally accessible preschool for all children by the end of the governor’s second term. There were 105 new GSRP providers in the last year.
  • Creating a unique Great Start to Quality ratings system to help families make informed decisions about child care and support child care programs as they improve their quality and provide the best care possible for children. Great Start to Quality assesses the quality of early childhood programs and providers in Michigan and supports licensed child care, preschool, and Out-of-School Time (OST) programs with ratings and quality improvements.
  • With continuous expansion of eligibility negotiated between the governor and the legislature for low- or no-cost child care for families with incomes at 130 percent of the federal poverty limit to 150 percent to 185 percent and now at 200 percent, 34,710 children (20,870 families) are now receiving child care assistance.
  • Winning a competitive federal Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five (PDG B-5) grant and initiating Birth to Five Literacy Support Networks across Michigan to bring together community partners who provide support for literacy during the first five years of a child’s life – the most vital developmental years – in an aligned and collaborative structure that promotes and delivers evidence-based and equitable early literacy supports across the state. The aim is to provide communities across the state with a support structure and resources so children, families, and educators can have equitable access to materials, training, and other supports for the development of birth-to-five literacy.
  • Administering $1.4 billion in federal pandemic aid to ensure that reliable child care remained available and affordable for Michigan families during the pandemic and that child care providers received operational supports to remain open during the pandemic.
  • Establishing a strong Early On® federal- and state-funded program as part of Michigan’s early intervention system to help infants and toddlers, birth to three years of age, who have a disability or a developmental delay or who are at risk of a delay due to certain health conditions, and to support their families. It is designed to help families find the social, health, and educational services that will promote the development of their infants and toddlers with special needs.

The Office of Great Start has been instrumental in the delivery of Michigan’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan, particularly Goal 1 to expand early childhood learning opportunities and Goal 2 to improve early literacy achievement.

The Office of Great Start has also been key in providing guidance to the state legislature on important changes to improve early childhood learning. MDE worked with the legislature on the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) state budget to have OGS provide incentives to Great Start Readiness Programs to expand programs from four instructional days per week to five instructional days per week and from 30 instructional weeks per year to 36 instructional weeks. Likewise, in the FY24 budget, the legislature has built an $18 million reserve fund for GSRP transportation, allows for accelerated development of pre-K staff, and provides $14 million to fund 10 regional parent education/literacy hubs – MiFamily Engagement Centers, all recommendations of the department to the governor and legislature.

MiLEAP will consist of three offices.

  • The Office of Early Childhood Education, focused on helping all kids meet their milestones and enter kindergarten ready to thrive.
  • The Office of Higher Education, focused on achieving the governor’s sixty by 30 goal (60 percent of all adults ages 25-64 with a postsecondary credential of some sort) and helping all Michiganders get the education that they need to Make it in Michigan.
  • The Office of Education Partnerships, focused on strengthening partnerships with communities to help kids succeed.

Dr. Rice said that the Michigan Department of Education will work with the governor’s office, the state legislature, and the several other agencies involved in Executive Order 2023-6 to provide for as smooth a transition as possible for children and families and affected MDE staff.

The four state departments from which offices and functions will be transferred to create MiLEAP are the Michigan departments of Education; Licensing and Regulatory Affairs; Labor and Economic Opportunity; and Treasury. Other agencies affected by the executive order, but not associated with the establishment of MiLEAP, are the departments of Technology, Management and Budget; Agriculture and Rural Development; and Natural Resources.

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