Increased revenues create opportunity for Legislature to address problems in education, child poverty

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2018

Contact:
Karen Holcomb Merrill
karenhm@milhs.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the revenue projections being announced at today’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Learning that there is more revenue available in the budget gives us hope that lawmakers will take this opportunity to invest in what they’ve failed to adequately support in recent years: our kids.

The false notion that everyone in our state has rebounded from the great recession continues to keep Michigan’s children behind. Kids living in poverty are more likely to have poor nutrition, live in unsafe conditions and have less success in school. The 2019 budget proposals seem to ignore these facts and will cause our children to lose even more potential.

Family Independence Program (FIP) grants have not seen a significant increase since 1996 and we were pleased that the governor was willing to make a small inflationary increase. But that increase was entirely inadequate given the erosion of purchasing power for families receiving FIP. Adding insult to injury, the Legislature couldn’t even agree to that small increase. Eight out of 10 FIP recipients are kids. Refusing to set aside additional funding for children and families shows us where the Legislature’s priorities are—or where they are not. According to our Kids Count report, 1 in 5 kids in Michigan lives in poverty. Instead of helping these children thrive, the Legislature has pushed strict lifetime limits on FIP and created sanctions for entire families based on just one child’s absences. Fewer kids are getting help today with basic needs like food, shelter and clothing than they were in the late 1950s.

We know that education is key to helping kids thrive, so we also hope this increased revenue will result in more funding for early literacy programs to improve third grade reading proficiency. No new significant funding is being directed to early literacy programs despite the state’s third grade reading law. Instead of holding kids back in third grade, why can’t we help lift them up when they are young and developing the skills they need to learn to read?

The At-Risk School Aid program, which has received increases in recent years, is still not fully funded, and Kids Count data show that children are being held back from academic success because of their economic situation, inadequate housing, poor nutrition and struggling schools. The consequences of this lack of funding further threaten children of color, who already face inequities resulting from years of limited opportunities.

We are hopeful that our leaders will reflect on the options they have with this revenue and make the right investments for Michigan.”

For more information, see the League’s budget briefs on childhood poverty and education. The League has additional recommendations here.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.milhs.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

The art of advocacy: Finding meaning in policy

I have had the incredible experience of interning with the Michigan League for Public Policy during this never-ending winter. The people I have met, and the knowledge and heartbreak (from researching student homelessness) I have experienced, provided me with immense opportunity to reflect on my personal life and be grateful for what I have. Working at the League has enabled me to research topics I had never really thought of before,  providing me the opportunity to find my passion—advocating for those less fortunate than I am.

Education has always been something extremely important to me and I will forever be grateful to my parents for supporting me and granting me with the opportunity to receive the education that I have. Last summer I had an internship with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that focused on providing support to youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) to help them find employment. Upon starting at the League I had the opportunity to pick what I wanted to focus on, so naturally, I picked something closely related to education—student homelessness. These two internships have allowed me to gain a better appreciation for what I have and drove me to further shape my future goals to help students that have not had the same opportunities I have had.

Collaborating with the big-hearted individuals at the League and the incredibly passionate people I have met throughout the past four months has contributed to the development of my long-term goal to start a nonprofit to advocate for students in Michigan to receive the best education they can, while having a stable environment to thrive in. Life is not all about academic education, but also about what is learned outside of the classroom, through work, sports, clubs or whatever else students may be involved in. Learning should not just be confined to a classroom, although the classroom plays a big part in the overall structure, there is so much opportunity out there to learn and grow as individuals. Often times people look at the bigger picture of how we can help, and focus their resources abroad or nationally, but it is extremely important to understand that so much can be done much closer to home.

During my time at the League, I have worked on the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book to help determine that the economic, health, education, and family and community sectors in the state of Michigan still have a long way to grow. To better the national standards, we must first start by bettering the standards in Michigan.

Thank you to everyone at the League for the huge hearts you have for advocating for the people of Michigan and for accepting me into your family. Special thanks to Alicia Guevara Warren, my incredible boss, for providing me with this amazing opportunity to grow and learn so much about the disparities in Michigan. There was never a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to the office to see what problem was being tackled that day. Thank you to Rachel, Gilda, my fellow intern Spike, and everyone else at the League for providing such a fun, hardworking environment to advocate for change. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to intern with the League this semester. I will never forget all of the things I have been able to accomplish with the help, advice and guidance of the advocates at the League!

— Alexa Krout

Kids are the future, so let’s teach them to count

Alexa Krout

Alexa Krout

My name is Alexa and I am one of the newest interns at the Michigan League for Public Policy. I look forward to this exciting opportunity to work with the amazing staff here and gain experience in state policy as well as advocate for the people—and kids—of Michigan.

I am currently an undergraduate student in my final semester at James Madison College of Michigan State University, where I am studying International Relations and Spanish. I have a strong interest in the international community and how the world is changing how different cultures interact with one another; in the U.S, this is rooted in individual states. Not only the state, but how the state government interacts with the community, especially children. Children are our future and if we don’t put more resources into them, there will be no growth for the overall community in the seemingly near future.

I am excited for the opportunity to help advocate for children that are too young to have their voices heard, particularly in education and education reforms, which are essential parts of life. The education I have received throughout my life has shaped me into the person I am today, in and out of the classroom. But, unfortunately, not everyone is given the same opportunity. Educational opportunities for youth of color in underdeveloped areas is extremely lacking and if all students don’t get that essential knowledge and experience, then Michigan is sending a clear message about its values and the state will not thrive.

AECF Kids Count

AECF Kids Count

My educational experience hasn’t always been the easiest, but it is one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I am very grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from it. I’ve learned how to make my voice heard even though I am often soft-spoken, and I have gained the ability to analyze detailed text, think critically and formulate an unbiased argument. All of this is not only beneficial for education, but is essential to succeeding in everyday life. What I have learned throughout my education is that not only do I have a say, but I have the ability to advocate for those without equal opportunity.

Additionally, throughout my professional experience I have been focused on youth and youth development in education, a topic that I am passionate about. During an internship that I had last summer, I had the chance to work with a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that advocated and supplied resources to youth in underdeveloped nations, providing the backing they needed to succeed. With my background in Spanish, I hope to be able to advocate for a community that not only struggles with a lack of educational opportunity, but also the inability to communicate effectively with people around them.

My prior experience, along with everything I’ve learned throughout my education and life, will help me excel in my work here with the Kids Count in Michigan project. I hope to bring a different perspective to the table and not only offer valuable insight on how the state and individual communities can help raise awareness, but help develop and promote policy solutions on how to get kids learning in and out of the classroom. Without youth, there is no future; the change of our world starts with the kids who will grow to be the leaders of tomorrow. After all, the best gift someone can give is the ability to receive an education—which every kid should be able to benefit from.

— Alexa Krout

 

New Kids Count report offers solutions on how to improve child well-being in Michigan

For Immediate Release
November 29, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@milhs.org
517.487.5436

Policy blueprint for Michigan lawmakers would turn around abysmal national, regional rankings

LANSING—The well-being of Michigan’s kids has continued to decline and lag behind other states in recent years, hurting Michigan’s ability to be a competitive state and attract and retain talent, families and businesses. But there are many opportunities and bills before the Michigan Legislature right now to better support kids in the state, according to a new Kids Count report, Enhancing Child Well-Being in Michigan: A Guide to Improving KIDS COUNT Outcomes and Rankings, released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The report was made possible by support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, an ongoing supporter of the League’s work in Michigan. For the report released today, the League looked at Michigan’s rankings in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book produced in June by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, crunched and compared numbers, connected the child well-being indicators to policies that can improve them, and set tangible data goals for legislators to strive for. Michigan’s national ranking of 41st in education (with 1st being the best) raised particular concern, but child poverty is also a major problem in the state.

“While we include policy recommendations in all of our work, this report goes a step further and sets concrete, data-driven measurable goals to support our kids and improve our national standing,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Many lawmakers look at Michigan’s rankings in the national KIDS COUNT Data Book and say, ‘Now what?’ Here are some real policy solutions they can pass to make a genuine difference.”

Overall, Michigan was ranked 32nd in child well-being in the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, finishing behind all other Great Lakes states: Minnesota (4th), Wisconsin (12th), Illinois (19th), Ohio (24th) and Indiana (28th).

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank all 50 states across four domains—health, education, economic well-being, and family and community—that represent what children need most to thrive. In the 2017 Data Book, Michigan received the following national rankings:

  • 31st in economic well-being. On par with the national average, 7 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds are not attending school or working.
  • 41st in education. Seventy-one percent of eighth-graders are performing below proficiency in math and 71 percent of fourth-graders are reading below proficiency.
  • 29th in family and community. Since 2009, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas has remained unchanged at 17 percent.
  • 17th in health. A bright spot for Michigan is the percentage of children with health insurance. Thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act and the Healthy Michigan Plan, just 3 percent of Michigan children lack coverage, an improvement on the national average of 5 percent.

The Enhancing Child Well-Being in Michigan report builds on these rankings and quantifies how much Michigan would need to improve—and how many kids would need to be better served—to move Michigan’s national ranking up one or more spots, five or more spots, and what it would take for Michigan to be the No. 1 state (best) in the nation.

The report’s recommendations include broad strategies that should be applied to all policies affecting kids, like taking a two-generation approach to help children by helping their parents and applying a racial equity lens to all policies to reduce the significant disparities that exist in Michigan. It also urges the passage of legislation currently before the Legislature that could have an immediate impact, like raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction and restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit. And finally, it recognizes positive, bipartisan movement that has already been made to help kids, like increased funding for students and schools with high rates of poverty and investments in child care in the current budget, and urges it to continue.

“This report covers all the policy bases and offers legislators a variety of helpful and realistic recommendations to make Michigan a more kid- and family-friendly state,” Guevara Warren said. “Lawmakers are always pointing to other states’ tax changes, economic incentives and even ad campaigns to try to emulate policies to make Michigan more marketable, but we really need greater investment in our state’s most valuable resource—our kids.”

Another recent national KIDS COUNT report produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, looked at the KIDS COUNT indicators and child well-being by race and ethnicity. The report’s scores showed that African-American children in Michigan fare worse in key indicators than in any other state in the country and that children of color are doing worse than their White peers in nearly all indicators across education, health, family and community, and economic security. The Enhancing Child Well-Being in Michigan report also seeks to reduce these wide racial disparities and help make Michigan a better state for kids of color.

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About the Kids Count in Michigan Project

The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Fetzer Institute.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.milhs.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Michigan policies must create opportunity and remove barriers for kids of color, immigrants

For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@milhs.org
517.487.5436

2017 Race for Results report shows Michigan has lowest child well-being score for African-American children in the country

LANSING—A new national report on child well-being released today shows that African-American children in Michigan fare worse in key indicators than in any other state in the country. The report also shows that Latino children in Michigan fall behind children of other ethnic groups on key milestones. The report, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that all Michigan kids are struggling academically, but children of color are doing worse in nearly all indicators across education, health, family and community, and economic security.

The report also indicates that Michigan children in immigrant families are doing relatively well, but uncertainty and outright hostility in state and federal policies continue to pose threats to their well-being and the stability of their families. Additionally, not every group of immigrants has the same experiences, with many struggling with housing, financial security, education and language barriers.

“Seeing how our kids in Michigan fare compared to national numbers is startling. We are failing all of our children, especially our kids of color, and we need policies to remove barriers that have created systemic inequities.

“Some policies like stringent immigration changes are specifically targeting certain kids, some policies are perpetuating historic racial disparities generation after generation, and some policies are just having inadvertent or unintended consequences. If we want Michigan to be a diverse and vibrant state, we have to start doing more to better take care of all of our kids,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

This is the second Race for Results report by the Casey Foundation; the Foundation released the first report in 2014. The report measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. The report’s index uses a composite score of these milestones on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons.

The 2017 Race for Results shows that Michigan’s overall index score for White children, 667, is lower than the national average of 713, and the state score of 260 for African-American children is the lowest score in the country—far below the national average of 369 for this group. However, Michigan’s scores for other ethnic groups were higher than the national average. The well-being of American Indian/Alaska Native children in Michigan was scored at 511 compared to 413 nationally, and Asian and Pacific Islander kids in the state scored 804 overall compared to 783 nationally. The report scored the welfare of Michigan’s Latino children at 446, while nationally this group’s score was 429. The index scores for Latino children across the country are alarming, with the vast majority, including Michigan’s, below 500.

“Michigan is not the best state for meeting the needs of African-American kids,” said Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. “At a time when racial tensions are running high in our nation, our government and our society are letting these kids down and leaving them behind. ‘Separate but equal’ was a foolish and flawed policy, but so is ‘Together but inequitable.’ We need to help all kids move up together, and we’re going to need an overhaul of our policy approach to do that.”

Regionally, Michigan had the second lowest score for White kids in the Midwest. The lowest score in the Midwest for White children was Indiana with a score of 664, while Minnesota had the highest at 789—the fifth highest score in the country.

The academic indicators continue to be some of the lowest and most distressing for Michigan. The percentage of fourth-graders proficient in reading is lower in all racial and ethnic groups in Michigan than the national average for each group. The starkest difference is among African-American fourth-graders in Michigan, where nine percent are proficient in reading compared to the national average of 18 percent. This is the lowest rate of any state. White and Latino kids in Michigan fall into the bottom five states nationally for the rate of fourth-grade reading proficiency. Similar struggles are seen for all racial and ethnic groups in eighth-grade math, and the math proficiency rate for African-American eighth-graders in Michigan is tied with Alabama for the worst in the country.

“As we work to help Latino children in Michigan thrive, we need to take a broader, two-generation approach to better support their parents,” said Angela G. Reyes, Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. “Over a quarter of our Latino kids live with a householder without at least a high school diploma, and their parents’ struggles to finish school affect their own reading proficiency and ability to learn.”

Around 284,000 immigrant kids currently live in Michigan. Some children face the same struggles, whether they were born in the United States or abroad. More than 20 percent of children in immigrant families live with a householder without at least a high school diploma compared to only eight percent of children in U.S.-born families. More than 25 percent of Latino children in Michigan live with a householder without at least a high school diploma. Conversely, all the other U.S.-born racial and ethnic groups have rates between nine and 15 percent.

“Not all immigrants are the same, and our experiences are as varied as the countries and cultures we come from,” said Aamina Ahmed, Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan. “Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to bring more immigrants to Michigan, President Donald Trump is trying to keep more immigrants out of the country, and policy approaches to immigration sway with the political winds. Immigrants come here in search of a brighter future, but right now, that search is clouded with fear and uncertainty, leaving them very vulnerable.”

Other indicators showed some significant differences in family structure. Eighty-seven percent of children in Michigan’s immigrant families live in two-parent households, a significantly higher rate than the 66 percent of children in U.S.-born families. Michigan immigrant kids are in the top five nationally in this category. Only 69 percent of all children in Michigan live in two-parent families (just above the national average of 68 percent), ranging from a low for African-American children of 33 percent to a high of 89 percent for Asian and Pacific Islander kids.

While this data is eye-opening, it also raises questions about how policies are affecting children of color and in immigrant families. Michigan policymakers in Lansing and Washington should embrace the following policy recommendations to address the low scores for child well-being and drastic racial disparities for kids of color identified in this report:

  • Use a racial and ethnic equity lens in evaluating and developing public policies, like the Raise the Age effort to keep kids out of adult prisons;
  • Keep families together and in their communities;
  • Increase economic opportunity for all parents, especially immigrants and people of color; and
  • Provide a quality education to help all children meet key developmental measures.

The Michigan League for Public Policy continues to make racial equity a focal point of all of our policy work, recently analyzing the state budget’s impact on Michigan kids and residents of color. The League also strives to lift up the contributions of immigrants and their families to our state at a time when they are coming under severe attack from policies out of Lansing and Washington. A new report, Immigrant Families in Michigan: A State Profile, analyzes Michigan’s immigrant population and the positive impacts they have on our economy and labor force. The League has also compiled immigration profiles for all 83 Michigan counties in conjunction with the Race for Results release.

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Release Information

The 2017 Race for Results report is available at www.aecf.org/raceforresults. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org. The website also contains the most recent national, state and local data on numerous indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about Race for Results can use the Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.

About the Kids Count in Michigan Project

The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Fetzer Institute.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

U.S. Senate budget plan slashes services for struggling Michiganians to push huge tax cuts for very wealthy

For Immediate Release
October 20, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@milhs.org
517.487.5436

Michigan’s Senators stand up for the people, but preferential budget primarily passes along party lines

LANSING—The United States Senate passed its budget resolution last night, including drastic cuts to programs and services that support hardworking Michiganians to fund $1.5 trillion in unpaid-for tax cuts largely for the wealthy and profitable corporations.

The budget sets up a fast-track, partisan process for passing the Republican tax plan with just 51 votes—the same process the Senate used to try to force through their repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The tax plan would overwhelmingly benefit those at the top of the economic ladder: the top 1 percent in Michigan would receive 62.5 percent of the tax cuts while the bottom 20 percent of Michiganians would get just 1.1 percent, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Michigan households that make over a million dollars each year (only .2 percent of Michigan’s population) would see an average tax cut of $253,500, ITEP found. The middle fifth of households in Michigan, people who are literally the state’s “middle class,” would receive just 7.1 percent of the tax cuts that go to Michigan under the framework at an average of $440.

“Like the House’s federal budget passed two weeks ago, the Senate’s budget and corresponding tax cuts line the pockets of the wealthy and profitable corporations at the expense of everyday Michiganians,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan residents who are struggling to get by suffer now, with immediate cuts to critical programs that help Michigan families thrive, including health coverage, tax credits for families with low incomes, and basic assistance for seniors and people with disabilities living in poverty, and they will suffer later, when dramatically higher deficits would ultimately force cuts to healthcare, education, infrastructure and other building blocks of economic growth.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy created a fact sheet on the top threats to Michigan in the federal budget, and has also drawn attention to the devastating impact of the tax plan drawn up by President Trump and congressional Republicans. An analysis by the League shows that Michigan is the second-most reliant on federal funds in the U.S., with 42 percent of our state budget coming from federal funds.

“For too long, many Michigan residents have been getting left behind by state and federal policies, and these budgets and tax plans are only going to widen the gap further,” Jacobs said. “Instead of tax cuts that benefit those who need it the least, Congress should be prioritizing budget and tax policies that do not add to the deficit while strengthening our economy and supporting working families through investment in education, housing, infrastructure and more. We’re grateful to Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for their understanding of this, and only wish the message would resonate with their colleagues across the aisle.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.milhs.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Lack of support with child care costs leaves families struggling

Mallory Boyce

Mallory Boyce

Ever since my junior year of high school, I’ve worked at a child care center in the Grand Rapids area, my hometown. This means that for the past four summers, I’ve spent up to 40 hours a week surrounded by 60 to 75 mostly happy school-age kids. My daily tasks include playing all types of tag games, braiding hair, teaching conflict resolution, and insisting that Band-Aids are of no use unless one is actually bleeding. All of that, plus two free snacks a day? Not a bad gig.

In the noise, fun and controlled chaos of the day-to-day work, it’s easy to forget what my job means for my kids and their families. As a recent report by the League discusses, child care is important as a tool for both educating young children and allowing parents to contribute to economic development.

I am most often reminded of this significance during small talk with people I have only just met, like the woman cutting my hair, a coworker at a second job, or anyone else who might ask what I do for a living. If whoever is doing the asking happens to be the parent of young children, more often than not they wonder about the weekly price for a child of whatever age at the center where I work. I’ll give them a quick estimate, which has always been met with a sigh and a brief lament on the high cost of child care, the stress of trying to balance work with family life and general frustration with the system as a whole.

Kids at play snipTheir frustration is legitimate. While child care is essential for most working families, its cost can often be debilitating. Child Care Aware’s 2016 report on the price of child care in each state found that the price of center-based child care for two children in a family with married parents was 22% of Michigan’s median income for that family type. Lower that family’s income to the poverty line and the same care takes up 91% of their income. Infant care eats up nearly 50% of the median income for single parents, with care for two children coming in at 86%.

The League’s Making Ends Meet in Michigan report shows the cost of child care for every county, and it is a significant expense for families in every corner of the state. Such a large portion of a family’s monthly budget going toward child care leaves little left over for other essentials like housing, food and transportation.

Even with the eligibility threshold for receiving subsidized child care being raised from 125% to 130% of the federal poverty level in Michigan’s 2018 budget, Michigan’s threshold is still among the lowest in the nation. As of 2015, the Child Care Development Fund’s Policies Database Book of Tables showed only three other states with eligibility thresholds below 130% of the federal poverty line, with the majority of states’ thresholds ranging from 150% in South Carolina to 315% in North Dakota. With 22% of the state’s children living in poverty, Michigan can’t afford to be trailing the rest of the nation when it comes to providing affordable child care to families with low incomes.

There is much to strive for when it comes to ensuring that Michigan’s working families have access to affordable, quality care for their children. Further increasing the eligibility thresholds for receiving help with child care expenses and otherwise working to ensure that Michigan’s children are well taken care of will help craft both strong families and a strong workforce, bringing us one step closer to a Michigan where all children thrive.

— Mallory Boyce

CREC yourself before you wreck yourself

“CREC yourself before you wreck yourself.” For the last 11 years, I have been trying to slip that joke into my work in the Legislature and now the League. And I had an epiphany yesterday that I might finally be able to do it…as long as I put my own name on it.

I also need to give it a proper explanation, as there’s probably a small sliver of people who know what CREC is AND get 90s Ice Cube lyrics. CREC stands for Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. Held in January and May of every year, CREC is comprised of the directors of the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies and the state treasurer or budget director.

These fiscal experts analyze and report on economic indicators and state revenue projections. The consensus that is reached during the January conference becomes the revenue basis for the governor’s budget proposal, and the consensus reached during the May conference become the revenue basis for the budget bills passed by the Legislature.

The May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference was earlier this week, and the news on state revenues is not great. But there is a silver lining, at least to me—it makes “wreck yourself” particularly relevant.

Since January, some Michigan legislators have been really hot on cutting the state income tax. This is a bad idea on its face, but especially in this current context. As League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said, “Given the fluctuations in state revenues, it was and continues to be foolhardy to consider tax cuts that would further jeopardize state services.”

if-only-i-had-checked-myselfSee! “CREC yourself before you wreck yourself” is not just a (bad) pun—it’s a valid point. The very intent of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is for lawmakers to check themselves and incorporate these estimates into their state spending and budgets. And if they don’t take these forecasts seriously and make poor fiscal decisions, they stand to wreck our state budget, our state services and ultimately our state.

The Legislature needs to let talk of an income tax cut die. And when the House and Senate budget committees begin meeting soon, lawmakers should be sensible and strategic with our state dollars, investing in the programs and services that support our workers and families and get the most bang for our state bucks. For example, increasing state funding for child care and heating assistance can leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

The next few weeks are critical to the state budget and the priorities you and I value. To help you get involved, the League has put together a timeline and advocacy tips on the state budget. We also continue to produce budget briefs on some of the issues that are most important to us and to you: supporting education, including child care, K-12 schools and colleges and universities, protecting healthcare and the Healthy Michigan Plan, and reducing incarceration and providing adequate support for prisoners.

Whether you can work a rap reference in or not, I hope you will join the League in standing up for these budget priorities and urging lawmakers to make smart investments in our state’s future.

Alex Rossman

League advocates for improvements in education from cradle to career

pdficon May 2017
Pat Sorenson, Senior Policy Analyst

Budget Brief JPG USE THIS ONEAs Michigan legislators continue to debate state spending for the upcoming budget year, the Michigan League for Public Policy is advocating for improvements in education for all children in Michigan, including full funding for the services to children at risk of educational failure, expansions in access to high-quality child care, and additional funding for early literacy programs. The League is also calling for increased funding for adult education programs.

BB League advocates for improving education graphic 1The Michigan Senate and House of Representatives have approved separate versions of the 2018 state budgets for School Aid and the Department of Education. Differences between the two will now be worked out in joint House/Senate conference committees, which will convene after a May 17th gathering of economists and budget experts to determine expected revenues for the upcoming year.

While there are a number of budget enhancements in the current House and Senate budget bills that the League supports, both the House and Senate recommended funding levels below the governor’s budget proposal, including reductions in key programs that assist children in high-poverty schools.

House and Senate leaders have said that they plan to cut between $200 million and $500 million in state General Funds from the governor’s overall budget—in part to show that a state income tax cut is affordable. Other potential uses of the funds that have been discussed include debt reduction, more money in the state’s rainy day fund, or investments in state priorities other than those outlined by the governor.

The League opposes tax cuts that further reduce the state’s General Fund or School Aid Fund because they could derail the state’s long-term economic vitality. The evidence is clear that investments in education and infrastructure are directly connected to economic growth. Yet, when adjusted for inflation, ongoing General Fund revenues in the current year are lower than they were 50 years ago—increasing the state’s reliance on uncertain federal funds.

K-12 EDUCATION

Per-Pupil Spending: Two of every $3 in the School Aid budget are used to support per-pupil payments, which are the primary source of funding for school operations. For 2018, the governor recommended an additional $128 million to raise per-pupil spending by between $50 and $100, with districts currently receiving the lowest payments per pupil receiving the largest increase. The goal is to further reduce the gap in state funding between the lowest-funded districts and the highest.

The governor also proposed higher per-pupil payments for high school students, reduced payments to cyber schools, and a cap on funding for instruction programs for nonpublic and home-schooled students (cutting total funding by $55 million).

  • The Senate increased per-pupil payments to between $88 and $176—using $100 million currently provided to districts to offset teacher retirement costs under the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). The impact on individual districts varies, ranging from Public School Academies that are not part of MPSERS and lose no offset funding to some traditional districts that lose more in MPSERS offset dollars than they gain in a per pupil increase. The Senate Fiscal Agency has calculated the likely impact for all districts in the state.

The Senate rejected the governor’s proposal for higher per-pupil payments for high school students, as well as the cuts in payments to cyber schools. The Senate cut programs for nonpublic/home-schooled pupils by only $2 million.

  • The House provided an across-the-board increase for all districts in the state of $100 per pupil—rejecting the use of the formula that provides higher payments for the districts that currently receive lower per-pupil foundation allowances.

The House rejected the governor’s proposals to increase payments for high school students, as well as cuts for cyber schools and nonpublic/home-schooled student programs.

The League supports increases in school funding that help raise the quality of education and mitigate the impact of inflation and fixed costs on school operating funds. In the last decade, the minimum K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance rose 5.7%—less than half the rise in inflation at 15.1%.1

Declining Student Enrollment: Since Proposal A, the reliance on a per-pupil foundation allowance for school operations has meant that schools with rapidly declining enrollments can face at least short-term difficulties in adjusting to large funding losses. In recognition of the impact on local schools and students, the governor included $7 million for two years of supplementary funding for districts that have experienced large enrollment declines (more than 5% over two years).

  • Both the Senate and the House rejected the governor’s proposal for supplementary funding for schools with declining enrollments.

The League supports funding to ameliorate the impact of declining enrollments on local schools and their students.

Funding for Students Academically at Risk: The At-Risk School Aid program is the state’s best vehicle for addressing the educational challenges children who are exposed to the stresses of poverty bring through the schoolhouse doors. The governor recognized the need to focus on high-poverty schools by recommending an additional $150 million in At-Risk funding for 2018 and by expanding eligibility.

Currently, the program provides state funds to schools based on the number of children receiving free school meals (130% of poverty). Under the governor’s proposal, districts could receive funding for children up to 185% of poverty. In addition, the governor would provide funding to “out-of-formula” or “hold-harmless” districts that are currently not eligible. These are districts that have combined state and local per-pupil foundation allowances that are higher than the basic amount, even though they may have a high number of children living in poverty. The governor projects that with these changes an additional 130,000 children could be served.

  • The Senate increased At-Risk spending by $100 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The Senate altered the allocation formula as follows: 1) $5 million of the new funding would be earmarked for English language learners; and 2) districts that are currently eligible for At-Risk funding would be guaranteed at least as much per pupil as they are receiving in the current school year (applied to the broader base of economically disadvantaged students), with the remaining new funds (estimated to be approximately $41 million) awarded to all districts, including those currently not eligible.
  • The House increased At-Risk funding by $150 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The House also adopted the governor’s proposal to expand eligibility to “hold-harmless” and “out-of-formula” districts but capped the per-pupil At-Risk payment to those districts at 50%. The House added budget language indicating an intent to use a portion of 2019 At-Risk funds to reimburse school districts that provide transportation to pupils enrolled in schools of choice or charters.

The League supports full funding of the At-Risk program, as well as expansion of eligibility to all children who are economically disadvantaged or at risk of educational failure.

Reading by Third Grade: Michigan law now allows for grade retention if children are not reading proficiently by third grade, making the need for early literacy programs even more critical. The governor proposed doubling funding for early literacy coaches at Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) from $3 million to $6 million. The largest component of the state reading initiative—funding for additional instructional time for children who are behind in reading—was retained at $17.5 million by the governor.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor and increased funding for ISD early literacy coaches by $3 million.
  • The House slightly reduced total funding for early literacy and allocated remaining funds ($25.4 million) through grants to districts, with an estimated $245 per first-grade pupil.

The League supports increased investments in early literacy, including programs that address learning in the earliest years of life such as early intervention through the Early On program, expanded home visitation programs, and a state-funded preschool option for 3-year-olds in high-risk schools and communities.

Adult Education: Despite a high level of need, state funding for adult education has dropped 70% since the 1997-2001 budget years. The governor recommended flat funding of $25 million for adult education programs in 2018.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education and provided $2.5 million for Career and Technical Education pilot projects in the state’s five prosperity regions.
  • The House agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education.

The League supports an increase in funding for adult education of at least $10 million for $35 million total, which would help nearly 8,000 additional students and serve as an important tool for improving educational achievement and adult literacy—part of a two-generational approach to improving the state’s economy.

CHILD CARE AND EARLY EDUCATION

Child Care Subsidies: The number of Michigan parents with low wages who received assistance with their child care costs fell by over 70% between 2003 and 2016—in part because of the state’s stringent income eligibility standards and low child care payments. In addition to forcing parents to either stay out of the workforce or find care that isn’t suitable for their children, the state’s child care policies made Michigan one of only a handful of states that had to turn away federal child care funds because of a lack of state matching dollars. In recognition of the need for high-quality child care, the governor included an increase of $6.8 million in the current budget year (2017), as well as $27.2 million ($8.4 million in state funds) in the 2018 budget to increase rates paid to child care providers.

  • The Senate provided $23.8 million ($7.1 million in state funds) for increased child care provider rates, as well as $5.8 million to increase the income eligibility threshold from 125% to 130% of poverty. Rate increases would be based on the number of stars a provider has in the state’s quality rating system, ranging from a maximum increase of 50 cents per hour for providers with no stars to $1.50 per hour for child care centers with a five-star rating. Unlicensed providers (family, friends and neighbors) who care for infants or toddlers could receive an increase of 25 cents per hour.
  • The House agreed with the governor to include $27.2 million for rate increases for child care providers.

The League supports payment increases for child care providers, as well as a boost in income eligibility levels—both needed to ensure that parents can secure and keep their jobs while children are in safe and supportive settings that encourage optimal learning. In addition, the League supports efforts to bolster the supply of high-quality child care businesses, including the movement away from hourly billing to biweekly or monthly payments, which make it easier for providers to care for children from families with low wages.

Great Start Readiness Preschool Program: The governor recommended level funding for the Great Start Readiness program ($243.6 million) which provides a high-quality preschool education for 4-year-olds from families with low incomes. Currently, the program is for children from families with incomes below 250% of poverty, but districts can expand it to children with incomes of up to 300% of poverty if they can demonstrate that all children with lower incomes who want to participate have had the opportunity to do so. For 2018, the governor restricted eligibility to children in families with incomes of 250% of poverty or less, and required that 100% of children meet that income eligibility level, rather than 90% as currently required. In addition, the governor changed the allocation formula to ISDs.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on spending levels and on the new allocation formula, but retained the option of serving children in families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty.
  • The House adopted the governor’s recommendations for the Great Start Readiness Program funding and allocations.

ENDNOTE

  1. K-12 Schools Minimum Foundation Allowance History, Senate Fiscal Agency (October 1, 2016).

 

Turning understanding into action

My first introduction to the Michigan League for Public Policy came this past summer in the form of a State Budget 101 Training. It had been a long week, and I wasn’t sure if budget talk was going to keep my attention. Gratefully, I was very wrong.

The League’s staff presented data and stories in a way that helped me to understand and criticize the foundational budget policies that throw people into poverty across Michigan. The information was so enlightening and exciting that I kept talking about it, Googling it and crafting new ways of sharing it for weeks afterward. (more…)

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