Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Whitmer’s Proposed $80.7B Budget Includes Funding for Free Pre-K, Tuition-Free Community College

Whitmer’s Proposed $80.7B Budget Includes Funding for Free Pre-K, Tuition-Free Community College

February 8, 2024

Photo credit: Ryan Garza, USA TODAY Network

The Detroit Regional Chamber summarized key business components of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State Address in January, noting its support for making the first two years of community college tuition-free for every high school graduate and providing access to free pre-K for all four-year-old Michiganders. The Chamber promotes a robust, well-educated talent pipeline as a driver of economic prosperity, and these actions are a step toward ensuring that. 

Read more about Whitmer’s plans for state and regional education in her budget proposal in the article below.

WWJ Newsradio
Feb. 8, 2024

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday laid out her budget proposal for the fiscal year 2025, making free education a big focus.

Whitmer’s proposed $80.7 billion budget includes nearly $19 billion for the state school aid fund and $14 billion for the general fund.

Following up on pillars of her State of the State address last month, Whitmer said Wednesday the budget includes funds to provide free pre-K for Michigan kids and tuition-free community college or skilled training for Michigan high school graduates.

RELATED: Chamber Perspective on the 2024 State of the State Address

Specifically, Whitmer’s budget includes $159 million for “continued expansion of free pre-K to every 4-year-old in Michigan,” which she says is two years ahead of schedule and can save families $10,000 a year.

Her budget proposal would also expand the Michigan Achievement Scholarship with the Michigan Guarantee to “ensure every Michigan high school graduate can receive an associate degree or skilled certificate tuition-free at a community college.” That would save more than 18,000 students up to $4,820 on tuition each year, according to the governor’s office.

Speaking before House and Senate lawmakers Wednesday in Lansing, Whitmer called that part of her proposal “a transformational opportunity for our students” and said it would give them “a path to a better paying, high-skill job in a career that they love.”

Other highlights of Whitmer’s proposed budget include $1.4 billion one-time spend that would refurbish and/or build up to 10,000 new housing units across the state.

“We know that this old housing stock and the dearth of housing stock is something that we’ve gotta continue to chip away at. So, a $1.4 billion investment is going to be game changing. It is 10 times what we were spending 10 years ago,” Whitmer said.

A full breakdown of Whitmer’s proposed budget can be found on the state’s website.

Michigan Republicans, meanwhile are pushing back on Whitmer’s budget, with Senate Republican Leader Aric Nesbitt voicing “serious concerns” regarding the proposal.

“What we saw from Gov. Whitmer today was more public relations talking points paid for by the $700 million income tax increase the Democrat majority demanded,” said Nesbitt, of Porter Township. “Michigan families deserve a government that effectively spends their tax dollars on roads, schools and public safety, but Democrats recklessly squandered a $9 billion surplus, raised income taxes, and are raiding teacher retirement benefits. It’s unfair to force Michigan families to pay billions in government corporate handouts as they struggle to deal with higher grocery bills and energy prices.”

The budget proposal also “pays off a ‘mortgage’ early” — certain Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System liabilities – and “frees up $670 million that can be invested into classrooms to help children learn,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

In response, the Great Lakes Education Project says that move is asking lawmakers to “declare war on public school teachers.”

“Instead of offering kids a lifeline, Whitmer is asking Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to slash funding for public school teachers and to strip $670 million from public school teachers’ pension benefit funds. Voters expect better, and they’ll remember how lawmakers treated their local teachers come Election Day,” said said Beth DeShone, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Education Department.

With the budget proposal now under consideration, lawmakers typically hope to “sign off” on a new budget plan each year in June or July.