By Chandra Madafferi and Terrence Martin
From small farm towns to the inner city and the suburbs, every student in Michigan deserves an opportunity to succeed, and that’s why education leaders are excited about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s new initiative designed to keep kids and their parents from falling through the cracks.
This summer, Whitmer announced her creation of a new state department to better coordinate resources for preschoolers through higher-education students, to create a more straightforward path for our children — regardless of their ZIP code, age or income level — to reach their full potential.
The Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement and Potential (MiLEAP) will be there to help families throughout a student’s educational journey, from preschool through college or career prep.
MiLEAP will collaborate with school districts, nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and others to ensure parents and students have easy, convenient access to educational assistance, no matter their situation. After all, we can have all the great programs in the world, but if the people such programs are meant to serve can’t easily access them or aren’t even aware of their existence, then they’re not of much help.
That’s where MiLEAP comes in. Recognizing that today’s working families are incredibly busy, MiLEAP will help parents get their children the exact help they need, when they need it.
Here’s how it will work:
At the beginning of a child’s educational journey, MiLEAP will assist working parents with things like helping find affordable childcare and enroll their kids in free preschool.
As students enter elementary and middle school, MiLEAP will help connect families with quality before- and after-school programs that are relevant to their student’s interests and provide information about potential career paths.
For high schoolers, MiLEAP will help students prepare for the transition to higher education and developing their own roadmap to success — whether it be through attending a Michigan public college or university or learning an in-demand trade through an affordable career-readiness program. That’s particularly helpful for first-generation college students, who often have no one to help with the complicated application, student aid and enrollment process.
Finally, for college and career prep students, MiLEAP will help them get financial and logistical support, so they can graduate on time, enter the workforce, land a great career and raise families of their own — right here in Michigan.
MiLEAP is a key component of the governor’s “Sixty by 30” initiative, which aims to ensure that 60% of working-age Michiganders have a college degree or skills certificate by 2030. This will help Michigan close the skills gap and create a better-trained and educated workforce so that we can attract good-paying jobs and investments to Michigan.
The new MiLEAP initiative isn’t happening in a vacuum; the governor and the Legislature also recently passed a bipartisan budget that provides a record level of per-student funding for local schools, as well as all-time high investments in student mental health, tutoring, educator attraction and retention, extra help for students in at-risk communities, school infrastructure, rural transportation, universal school meals, and much more.
We’re proud of the outstanding professionals working in education across our state. With these new resources and MiLEAP working in concert and coordination with them and our existing educational entities, we can accomplish our shared mission: to deliver an outstanding public education for every Michigan student, no matter where they live.
Our students deserve to have even better opportunities than we did — and critical to that is making sure they receive the education, skills and training needed to succeed in college and the workplace. The governor’s new MiLEAP department will help knock down barriers to success and let the entire nation know that here in Michigan, anyone who works hard can make a good life.
(Chandra Madafferi is an Oakland County teacher and president of the Michigan Education Association. Terrence Martin is a Detroit teacher and president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan.)