A study of preschool enrollment in Michigan found about 40 percent of students eligible for tuition help are not receiving it. That’s because there is not enough funding for all the families that qualify.
Both federal and state governments offer preschool programs for children based on income and other risks. But the spots are limited, and programs across northern Michigan have waiting lists.
The study done by the Center for Michigan found that’s true across the state. It found on average about 40 percent of students eligible for assistance are not getting it, statewide.
The numbers are even slightly higher in Grand Traverse County. But the percentage of students missing out on the programs was as low as 18 percent in places like Manistee, Ludington and Baldwin.
Paula Jarvis, who directs the Great Start Collaborative in Mason, Oceana and Lake Counties, says there’s not enough funding for all the students that qualify for the programs.
“We are doing a good job of really collaborating to find all the families, to get them in a space. If they don’t have a space, to get them on a list so we can move them into a slot if it becomes available,” she says.
Some school districts, like Baldwin, are using money from their general fund to make preschool more affordable.
Education leaders say the benefits of preschool for at risk kids are clear. They would like the state to fully fund the Great Start program.
Some leaders up north are also talking about local funding. This summer a property tax was proposed in Leelanau County. But the county’s lawyer said counties do not have that taxing power. The only school that could levy such a tax would be a regional Intermediate School District. But regional property taxes for education are rare in Michigan.