Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > July 14, 2023 | This Week in Government: Great Start Moved to New Department Focused on Lifelong Learning

July 14, 2023 | This Week in Government: Great Start Moved to New Department Focused on Lifelong Learning

July 14, 2023
Detroit Regional Chamber Presents This Week in Government, powered by Gongwer, Michigan's home for Policy and Politics news since 1906

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

Great Start Moved to New Department Focused on Lifelong Learning

A new department will absorb several existing responsibilities related to education and child care, including the Office of Great Start, from the Department of Education and other state departments as part of a reshuffling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.

Whitmer, through an executive order, effective Dec. 1, created the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential.

Several offices currently housed in other agencies around pre-school, child care, education and scholarship administration will move to the new department. It will also allow the governor to appoint a director to oversee these actions, rather than having them housed under the Department of Education, which is not run by a gubernatorial appointee.

“Every Michigander deserves a path to ‘make it in Michigan’ with strong, lifelong learning support,” Whitmer said in a statement. “For too long, we have thought of education as K-12, but we know that’s not good enough. I’m establishing MiLEAP today because we need to get every kid started early, in pre-K, so they succeed in kindergarten, have paths after graduation to get higher education tuition-free, and forge strong partnerships with our employers so they can get a good-paying, high-skill, and in-demand job. MiLEAP will help our learning ecosystem take the jump to the next level as we grow our economy and build a brighter future for Michigan.”

The new agency, dubbed MiLEAP, will partner with the Department of Education and the State Board of Education to complement already existing long-term planning efforts, the statement said. It will also work with the Growing Michigan Together Council, which is focused on growing the state’s population.

A key difference between MiLEAP and the Department of Education is that the education agency is led by the superintendent of public instruction, who is appointed by the State Board of Education, not the governor.

MiLEAP will be led by a director appointed by the governor and will be part of the governor’s Cabinet. That appointment is yet to be announced. The governor’s office said no additional funding is needed for the change.

The new department was generally praised by Whitmer allies, including Democrats and education officials. It was panned by Republicans and conservative education groups as more bureaucracy.

MiLEAP will also include offices of Early Childhood Education, Higher Education and Education Partnerships.

It will also receive a variety of offices transferred from other agencies, including the Office of Great Start, the Governor’s Educator Advisory Council and the Michigan PreK-12 Literacy Commission, all from MDE.

The Office of Great Start has existed within MDE for 12 years, Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said in a statement Wednesday.

“I respect the governor’s constitutional authority to restructure state government,” 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.”

The Office of Sixty by 30 and Tri-Share Child Care will be moved to MiLEAP from the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. This means Michigan Reconnect and the Future for Frontliners program will also be overseen by MiLEAP. Child care licensing is moving out of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and scholarship administration is moving out of the Department of Treasury.

The Governor’s announcement said the new department has three broad goals: adding capacity to the early learning team, so every child is ready for kindergarten; accelerating progress toward the Sixty by 30 higher education goal; and prioritizing community, regional and state partnerships that help students succeed.

Additionally, the announcement said the new department’s purpose is to ensure all available resources, data and funds are aligned around a single vision, “building an education system that can support the economy of the future and help anyone make it in Michigan.”

“This is a big opportunity for young children, their families, and the early care and education workforce, which is the backbone of Michigan’s economy,” said Dawne Bell, Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Early Childhood Investment Corporation. “We are so thankful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership in unifying and aligning these resources and services and for her commitment to ensuring Michigan families have access to equitable, high-quality, and affordable early care and education. At ECIC, we believe learning begins at birth. We look forward to collaborating with MiLEAP to further capacity and increase investments in the earliest years.”

Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) and House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township), both criticized the move by the governor.

“More government does not fix bad government,” Nesbitt said in a statement. “I believe the people of Michigan would prefer our governor focus more on ensuring children can read and less on scaling back education accountability standards and creating more government bureaucracy.”

Great Lakes Education Project Executive Director Beth DeShone said in a statement another new bureaucracy won’t help kids, but empowering parents would.

“The Governor and her allies in Lansing’s bureaucracy spent years locking kids out of their classrooms when parents knew better,” DeShone said in a statement. “Governor Whitmer and public school bureaucrats have spent years vetoing reading scholarships and new tutoring programs when parents knew their students were falling desperately behind after political school shutdowns. Whitmer and bureaucrats have put Michigan’s kids further and faster behind their peers in other states when parents, pediatricians, and student advocates begged them to let kids learn.”

Democratic lawmakers, advocacy groups and other education groups praised the new agency.

“We are thrilled by Gov. Whitmer’s MiLEAP announcement and her administration’s continued commitment to creating opportunities for every student, regardless of their ZIP code, age or income level,” Michigan Education Association President-elect Chandra Madafferi, a longtime teacher from Oakland County, said in a statement. “Education is a lifelong pursuit, and it’s important that we provide the scaffolding needed to assist students and parents every step along the way. MiLEAP will help create stronger pathways to success for students from preschool through higher education and help them realize their full potential.”

Board of Education Members Pamela Pugh and Mitchell Robinson commended the governor but said the creation of the new department raises important questions and considerations.

“As a voice for Michigan schools, children, teachers, and parents, we want to stress the urgency of getting this right. Our education system is under attack, and the stakes are high,” the two said in a statement. “Michigan has taken important steps to ensure our children are set up for success, and we cannot afford to falter now. MiLEAP must be a vehicle for real change and improvement, providing the education and opportunities our children need to thrive.”

The order also renames the Office of Rural Development as the Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity and moves it to the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The state archives were also moved to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

No Targets Set During First Meeting of Michigan’s Population Council

The group tasked with boosting Michigan’s dwindling population met for the first time on Thursday and laid the groundwork and outlined a tight timeline for arriving at answers.

The Growing Michigan Together Council meeting was held in Detroit and livestreamed for the media.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also announced on Thursday the remaining members of the council, four working groups and the working group’s co-chairs.

“There is no more important conversation in Michigan than the ones you will be participating in between now and December,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II told the council during Thursday’s meeting. “This is about setting a trajectory for all of us.”

The population council was created during the Mackinac Policy Conference earlier this year and will work to develop a statewide strategy to grow Michigan’s population and economy. By December, the council is required to adopt recommendations for population growth.

Shirley Stancato, who co-chairs the council, emphasized that the goals of the council would not be achieved unless its members worked together.

“None of us is here to win something,” she said. “We’re embarking together on a journey of inquiry…To reach an eventual consensus, I urge each council member to approach our work with humility, respect and an unwavering eye toward a better, more prosperous Michigan.”

Republicans in the Legislature have been critical of the council, calling it partisan and a political cover for tax-increases.

In a statement issued Thursday, House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) urged Republican council members to oppose any tax-hikes that may be recommended.

“Tax hikes will only send more Michiganders looking for greener pastures, but it’s clear that’s what the partisan council is designed to push,” he said. “Tax increases pushed by partisan insiders won’t help make a more affordable, prosperous Michigan or attract new residents to live and work here. Instead of trying to lure people here by making life more expensive, the commission should look to Florida and other affordable Republican states that are growing and thriving.”

Michigan is not alone in its declining population growth, with 18 other states experiencing similar trends, according to data presented during the meeting, but the state is outpacing the national average in declining natural growth and negative domestic immigration.

No specific population target was set on Thursday, though the Governor tasked the council to set one for 2050. Hilary Doe, chief growth officer, laid out what it would take to gain three million people.

She admitted that it would be an ambitious goal but dared council members to think big.

“Something like one million in growth between now and 2050 is ambitious, but how big are we going to go together,” she said.

Some council members pushed back at the idea of setting a number goal during Thursday’s meeting, saying more information was needed and that the focus should be on how to prevent Michigan from losing congressional seats or more clearly outlining what the goals for population growth were. Some said starting with a number felt like “reverse engineering.”

Members also requested more delineated data that considered how race factored into income level and educational attainment.

New council appointees included Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), Rep. Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet) and Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn). All three lawmakers are voting members, and Farhat, 23, represents the only member of the council under the age of 25.

Republicans have also criticized the lack of young people on the council, saying that the Governor violated her own order for the group’s structure by not including more people under the age of 25.

Whitmer also appointed Jaclyn Butler, who holds a doctorate in demography and rural sociology and is the state demographer within the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics, and Ronald Fisher, a professor of economics at Michigan State University who specializes in state and local government fiscal policy.

“The Growing Michigan Together Council’s appointees will bring a diverse range of skills, experiences, and perspectives to the table,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Led by four workgroups, the council will hold several meetings over the next few months, hearing from Michiganders firsthand. They will then collaborate and continue working towards presenting a comprehensive strategy to help anyone make it in Michigan. Together, we will grow our economy and population and write the next chapter in Michigan’s story.”

The four work groups include PreK-12 Education; Higher Education; Infrastructure; and Jobs, Talent, People.

Chandra Madafferi, incoming president of the Michigan Education Association, and Karen McPhee, an education leadership consultant, will co-chair the PreK-12 workgroup.

The Higher Education workgroup will be co-chaired by Bill Pink, president of Ferris State University, and Russell Kavalhuna, president of Henry Ford College.

Former Michigan Secretary of State and current member of the Wayne State University Board of Governors Terri Lynn Land and Regine Beauboeuf, senior vice president and program equity advisor at HNTB Corporation, will co-chair the Infrastructure workgroup.

Portia Roberson, Chief Executive Officer of Focus: HOPE and Department of Civil Rights Commission Chair, and Marty Fittante, Chief Executive Officer of InvestUP, will Co-chair the Jobs, Talent, People workgroup.

Doe said that in developing population strategies, the council should keep in mind that most of the people leaving Michigan are those between the ages of 18-34, at 45%, and those who have a bachelor’s degree or higher educational attainment, at 31%.

The meeting, which lasted just over three hours, primarily focused on factors that are considered to contribute to Michigan’s population decline, including slower wage growth, poorer educational outcomes, lack of housing and lack of housing infrastructure.

Whitmer Signs Bills Making Juneteenth a State Holiday, Ending Asset Test

Legislation officially declaring Juneteenth a state holiday and repealing the asset test for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday.

SB 35 (Public Act 53) ends the asset test and SB 50 (PA 54) sets Juneteenth as a state holiday.

On June 19, 1865, Union Army General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas and read General Order #3, stating that all enslaved people were free, and that former masters and enslaved people were absolutely equal in personal and property rights. Juneteenth was followed by the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments ending slavery, guaranteeing equal protection under the law to all citizens, and granting all men the right vote, the governor’s office noted in its release.

“Juneteenth is an important opportunity to highlight the stories of Black Michiganders and celebrate the path we are walking toward the freedom, equality, and justice that is the promise of Michigan and America,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said in a statement. “This bill will codify Juneteenth into law as a state holiday and ensure we take time every Juneteenth to recognize both the progress we have made and the work we must continue to do together. As Michigan’s first Black Lieutenant Governor, I am proud to work alongside Michiganders to address issues like the disparities in health care access and discrimination at school or the workplace, and make record investments in infrastructure, education, and environmental justice that particularly impact Black Michiganders. Gov. Whitmer and I are committed to ensuring every Michigander has the opportunity to succeed.”

State employees already received Juneteenth off as a state holiday before the bill was passed and signed.

“Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day and Liberation Day, constitutes the continuous fight for true freedom,” said NAACP Michigan State Conference President Yvonne M. White in a statement. “Freedom is a thread, and a fight, woven through this nation’s history and current political climate. In spite of attempts to limit access to the ballot box, economic/education empowerment, and basic civil rights, we thrive together. The NAACP applauds Gov. Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Gilchrist for their bold leadership in making Juneteenth a state holiday in Michigan, celebrating true freedom for all.”

On ending the asset test, the Governor’s office said Michigan joins 36 other states that have eliminated this requirement for those seeking food benefits.

“No one should be forced to sell their car or empty their savings account to feed themselves and their children,” Whitmer said. “Improving access to food assistance is a commonsense step already taken by 36 other states to lower costs for families and ensure they can get the benefits they need. Before this bill, Michiganders with more than $15,000 in assets – including the value of their vehicle and savings – would not qualify for food assistance. This forced people who might have been laid off or just need a little breathing room to make impossible choices to quality for SNAP. Food benefits must be accessible for Michiganders who need them without illogical tradeoffs.”

Republicans, though, have blasted the bill as allowing those with resources to qualify for benefits.

“Michiganders are always ready to support people who need temporary help to get back up on their feet, but Democrats are turning the food assistance program on its head,” House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) said in a statement. “Without this test measuring people’s wealth, even lottery winners and other millionaires could rake in food stamps paid for with our tax dollars that should be going to those who truly need help feeding their families. Offering food stamps to the rich does nothing to put food on the tables of Michiganders in need.”

Congressional Republicans All Backing Trump

The state’s GOP congressional delegation threw their support behind former President Donald Trump in his efforts to secure the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

It marks a change in tone from state leadership, where some Republicans in the Legislature are backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and others are tight lipped about supporting any candidate in the primary.

The endorsement from U.S. Rep. John James (D-Farmington Hills) is also significant. James won a tight race for the 10th U.S. House District and is likely to face some kind of effort from the Democrats in 2024.

“President Biden has wrecked our economy, let our position as the sole world power slip, and opened our borders,” James said in a statement issued by the Trump campaign. “Biden’s policies have been particularly detrimental to Michigan’s middle-class. Under President Trump on the other hand, inflation was at 2%, the American family was strengthened through the child tax credit and other pro-family policies, and our communities were more secure. In 2024, we need to give hope to Americans who feel like their government is failing them.”

Along with James, U.S. Rep. Tim WalbergU.S. Rep. Bill HuizengaU.S. Rep. Jack BergmanU.S. Rep. John Moolenaar and U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain endorsed Trump on Tuesday.

“Under the Trump presidency, America was prosperous, the economy was strong, the world was a safer place, and Michiganders were better off,” they said in a joint statement. “President Trump has proven he has the ability to deliver results on Day One and also the ability to win in key battleground states like Michigan, being the only Republican to win a Presidential race here since 1988.”

In the Legislature, several Republicans are backing DeSantis and pointing to a desire for new leadership and a potential Republican president who could serve two terms.

Although Trump won Michigan in 2016, he lost in 2020. Several Republicans he backed lost statewide office bids in 2022.

House, Senate Fiscal Agencies: SAF Slightly Below Estimates

Although not dramatically different from the consensus revenues agreed to in May, the School Aid Fund is just below estimates, while the General Fund is above them, according to the House and Senate fiscal agencies June reports, which were released Thursday.

The agencies differed significantly on the numbers. The Senate Fiscal Agency said the School Aid Fund, year-to-date, was $2.7 million below estimates, and the General Fund was $71.8 million above.

On the House side, its fiscal agency said the General Fund was $101.6 million above estimates while the School Aid Fund was $77.3 million below estimates.

The state saw roughly $3 billion in revenue in June 2023, both agencies said, a 2.2 percent decrease from June 2022.


The Senate Fiscal Agency said net income tax revenue totaled $1.3 billion in June 2023, essentially unchanged from June 2022 and $26.3 million less than the forecasted level. Withholding payments represented the majority of gross income tax revenue and were 11.5% above last year’s levels. They were also $16.8 million more than the level expected based on SFA monthly estimates. Refunds were $46.9 million greater than expected.

Sales tax receipts totaled $874.5 million in June 2023, a 15.7% decrease from the June 2022 level and $83.1 million below the forecasted level. However, a significant amount of revenue received in earlier months was transferred as use tax revenue (as such use tax revenue saw a 46.6% increase from June 2022 last month).

Absent this transfer, sales tax collections would have been down 8% from June 2022 and $13.1 million below the forecasted level, while use tax collections would have been up 9.1 percent from June 2022 but $16.6 million below the forecasted level for the month.

Sales tax collections from motor vehicles sales totaled $131.8 million, down 2.6% from the level in June 2022 but the highest level since October 2022, SFA said.

Net revenue from the repealed Single Business Tax, Michigan Business Tax and Corporate Income Tax totaled $271.8 million, a 13.8% decline from the June 2022 level but $58.7 million more than expected.


The House Fiscal Agency noted revenue from online gaming totaled $26.4 million in June 2023 with collections through June coming in $30.4 million higher than the same period during the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Additionally, HFA said, year-to-date revenue from recreational cannabis sales through June 2023 was $51.1 million higher than one year ago. Collections from the real estate transfer tax were $95 million, or 27.8 percent, lower on a year-to-date basis. The transfer from the lottery to the School Aid Fund was $90 million in June 2023, and year-to-date transfers were $4 million lower than 2021-22.

Consumption taxes, which consist of the sales tax, the use tax, beer and wine taxes, liquor taxes, and tobacco taxes, totaled $1.2 billion in June 2023, and were collectively $55.3 million higher than in 2021-22 on a year-to-date basis.

Net income tax revenue totaled $1.3 billion in June 2023, HFA said, and for 2022 -23, collections through June were $2 billion less than the same period during 2021-22. Year-to-date gross income tax collections in 2022-23 were $1,4 billion lower than one year ago due to lower quarterly and annual payments and lower collections from the new flow through entity tax, HFA said.

On the business tax side, revenue collections were $184.9 million higher through June 2023 than a year ago, HFA said.

MBT refunds through June 2023 were close to last year’s pace while CIT collections over the same period were $166.3 million higher than last year’s amount. However, collections do not reflect CIT earmarks related to the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund, Revitalizing and Placemaking Fund, and Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund that will offset much of that differential.

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