Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announced MiLEAP program is to tackle early childhood education, after-school programs and partnerships to promote career success. (Erin Kirkland for Chalkbeat)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established a new state agency Wednesday to focus on improving educational outcomes for students in preschool through postsecondary programs.

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This story also appeared in Chalkbeat Detroit

The Michigan Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) will aim to help families access affordable child care, enroll kids in free pre-K, connect kids with before- and after-school activities, teach students about career options and create paths for no-cost and affordable higher education in fields that are in demand. The new department will work with the Michigan Department of Education and State Board of Education, according to Whitmer’s office.

“For too long, we have thought of education as K-12, but we know that’s not good enough,” Whitmer said in a prepared statement. “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.” 


The department will be made up of three offices: early childhood education, higher education, and education partnerships. It will be led by a state-appointed director.

“We will have more on the director selection in the future,” said Robert Leddy, director of communications for the governor’s office.

MiLEAP’s overall goals will be to add capacity to early learning, have every student in the state eventually earn a skill certificate or degree after high school and prioritize strategic state partnerships.

When Whitmer was first elected, she set a goal of 60 percent percent of Michigan residents having a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030.

The governor also has made early childhood education one of her top priorities.

The new department also touches on a years-long effort by advocates to boost after-school programming in the state.

“MiLEAP will get this done by establishing clear metrics for lifelong learning, collaborating with cross-sector leaders at the local, regional, and state level, and developing a shared action plan for everyone to work towards,” Leddy said.

The cost of the department’s programming is built into the state budget, and the agency will work with the Legislature to fund operational needs, Leddy said. 

It will use state and federal funding, including $50 million in next year’s budget to provide before- and after-school programs, Leddy added.

“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 press release. 

“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.” 

Hannah Dellinger is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering K-12 education. Contact Hannah at

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