This month’s Coffee with Christine will be held at the Portage Community Senior Center, 203 E. Centre Ave., Portage, MI 49002, on Aug. 25 at 10:30 a.m. I always look forward to getting to meet constituents face to face, answer questions and hear your concerns directly.
Summer Legislative Work Period
While the Legislature has been in our summer legislative work period, many legislative efforts have been paused at this time. However, we can expect things to pick up again when we head to Lansing again on Sept. 5. Even though the legislative side of things has been slow, my schedule has not! The legislative recess has given me the opportunity to do one of my favorite things as a legislator — spend more time meeting with constituents, meeting with other government officials and touring local businesses and organizations. It helps me stay in touch with local issues and to ensure the work we are doing in Lansing is helping people right here in our community.
In addition to local meetings, I have had the opportunity to do several meetings and tours around the state. As chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, this has allowed me to hear from those working in this space and learn more about the services they offer to their region and the state. I look forward to using the new things that I have learned to continue ensuring we use our state budget effectively to support vulnerable populations around Michigan.
One of the most useful tools for me to be an effective legislator is hearing directly from the people I represent. Legislative canvassing is our best way to do this. Throughout last month and this month, don’t be surprised if a member of my team or I came and knocked on your door or left some literature. We have been talking with neighbors about what has been accomplished in Lansing so far this year and asking what they hope to see done throughout the rest of the year.
We have received some great feedback, and I look forward to bringing it to Lansing in September. We still have several more walks scheduled before the end of the month so if you haven’t seen us yet, there is still a chance you may in the coming weeks. We look forward to talking with you!
Back to School
As many of us with school-age children know, the start of the school year is just around the corner. In the spirit of back to school, I wanted to highlight the record-setting School Aid budget Gov. Whitmer signed at the end of July. The new budget includes a 5%, $458 per-pupil increase in the state’s foundation allowance to $9,608 per pupil and large percentage increases for students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students and English learners. Additionally, it includes funding for teacher recruiting and retention, student mental health supports, literacy supports and an expansion to our early childhood education plan.
Long-term educational success starts with a quality early education. The new state budget also allows for Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) providers to expand their program from four instructional days a week to five days per week and from 30 instructional weeks a year to 36 weeks and increases the number of families that can qualify for the program. GSRP eligibility is primarily determined based on family household income, which was also increased for 2023-24 program year to $90,000 for a family of four; however, other factors such as a child’s diagnosed disability, parent education and primary home language other than English may also be considered. There is still time to enroll for fall! Parents can visit www.mifreepreschool.org to find a GSRP center near them, or they may contact their local intermediate school district.
Another critical investment I wanted to note is the new Michigan School Meals program included in the budget. Michigan School Meals will begin at the start of the 2023-24 school year to provide state reimbursement to schools for every breakfast and lunch served to Michigan’s public-school students who receive meals through their school’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. This is not just an investment in our kid’s education, but their long-term health and development as well.
Lastly, students who are thinking about enrolling in college after recently graduating high school are encouraged to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to unlock the financial assistance available from the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. Completion of the FAFSA is required to be considered for the Michigan Achievement Scholarship. To get started with the FAFSA, go to www.fafsa.gov. In addition to state assistance, completing the FAFSA unlocks federal aid – such as Pell Grants, student loans, work-study jobs and institutional grants.
Thank you all for staying connected with my updates. As always, please feel free to reach out to my office at any time should you have questions or concerns about any legislative or local issues. My office can be reached at ChristineMorse@house.mi.gov or (517)373-8670, and any friends or neighbors who wish to join my mailing list can do so here.
House District 40