With a child care crisis impeding employment opportunities and throttling economic growth across our nation, first-term State Senator Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) believes the ultimate answer is to go big — public options for child care and pre-K for all. However, three decades of strategic leadership in early childhood, educational and economic policy have taught McDonald Rivet that big, systemic change doesn’t happen quickly. That’s why she is wasting no time working to help Michigan meet this moment.
Earlier this summer, McDonald Rivet was one of 90 state legislators and leaders from across the country joining senior administration officials, including First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, at the White House States Convening on Child Care. The summit explored strategies to bring down costs for parents, increase access to providers, and improve job quality for workers.
“It was good to see how other states are using the increase in federal funding to address the child care crisis,” said McDonald Rivet. “Fixing a broken system takes time, but that’s time many families don’t have. It’s why I introduced a big increase in the Working Families Tax Credit on day one.”
McDonald Rivet didn’t just bring a bill to the table on that first day of the first Democratic-led Michigan Legislature in forty years. In the two years prior, she helped build an extensive, cross-sector coalition of support for increasing the state match of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Over 230 business and community groups, including 14 regional chambers of commerce, backed McDonald Rivet’s proposal expanding the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) from six to 30 percent. Passed earlier this year as part of an omnibus tax bill, it raises the average refund for eligible working families by $600 and puts an average EITC refund of $3,150 back in families’ pockets each year.
Half of the state’s children live in households receiving the WFTC, a reality McDonald Rivet says motivated her. “We knew getting to 30 percent would be meaningful. As a work incentive for parents, and for the stability and opportunities it provides to a million Michigan kids— it’s huge.”
Huge, but this new legislator serving the purple Senate District 35, anchored by Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw, realizes it’s just one piece in a complex puzzle. She’s relentlessly focused on making work more practical and life more affordable for families with lower incomes in Michigan.
McDonald Rivet recently facilitated a discussion on child care and preschool with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Midland’s Longview Early Childhood Center staff, and community partners. From wait lists so long that new children would age out before a chance to enroll, to a shortage of providers and workers, the group emphasized the pressing need to strengthen existing programs and open more facilities offering early childhood services across Michigan.
At this event, McDonald Rivet noted the Fiscal Year 2024 State Budget makes big investments in child care and pre-K to set more Michigan kids up for success, save more families thousands of dollars a year, and get more young parents into Michigan’s workforce. She said her amendment funding pre-K expansion is a key step but not the only one Michigan needs to take. “The Governor is an incredible champion for preschool for all, and we’re grateful for her leadership on it. Our next steps need to be toward child care for all.”
When the Michigan Legislature resumes its regular session schedule in the fall, McDonald Rivet plans to introduce legislation that will improve affordability and remove barriers around opening and maintaining child care facilities.
This wouldn’t be the first statewide early childhood initiative McDonald Rivet has spearheaded. Her work as Executive Director for Michigan Head Start from 1999-2004 transformed the association into a leading voice for the state’s young children. In the following years, still focused on increased student achievement, family stability, and financial independence for lower income families, McDonald Rivet was a lead architect of Michigan’s birth to five system of care (what would become the Great Start Readiness Program) and its parent organization, the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
In addition to serving as Chief of Staff for the Michigan Department of Education and Senior Policy Advisor on former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm’s Children’s Cabinet, McDonald Rivet has worked as a leading policy expert with both state and national groups, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Children and Families Fellowship Network, PNC National Grow Up Great Advisory Committee, and Michigan’s Children Board.
With her economic, early education and care policy work, McDonald Rivet is cementing her legacy as a driving force in improving opportunities and outcomes for Michigan’s children and working parents.
Read more from the Michigan Senate Democrats at SenateDems.com/press.