News Releases

U.S. House and Senate budgets make billions in cuts for Michigan residents to pay for tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy

For Immediate Release
October 05, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Budgets threaten food assistance, Medicaid, disability programs, education, job training and more

LANSING—Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a 2018 budget resolution that would slash billions of dollars from vital programs like food assistance and Medicaid that help millions of Michigan families afford necessities and get ahead. These damaging cuts at the expense of working Americans are designed to set up massive tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy. The U.S. Senate’s budget resolution would have similar, harmful effects on Michigan residents.

The Michigan League for Public Policy has been warning residents about the impending devastation in President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal and Congress’ continuation of its priorities. The federal budget was a primary focus of the League’s public policy forum held yesterday, and the League also recently developed a new fact sheet on the top threats to Michigan in the federal budget. The forum’s keynote speaker was Bob Greenstein, President and Founder of the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which has also prepared a report on the federal budget.

“Yesterday, hundreds gathered at the Michigan League for Public Policy’s policy forum to share their concerns about the impact of federal policies on our state. Today, those fears came one step closer to coming true,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Vice President of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “The Michigan budget’s dependence on federal funds—currently accounting for 42 percent—makes our state particularly vulnerable to these federal cuts, and Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders in Michigan need to send their Republican counterparts in Washington a strong message opposing these cuts.”

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. The League has been urging Michigan residents to contact their members of Congress to oppose the cuts in the federal budget, but today’s vote still broke along party lines.

Both the House and Senate budgets set up a fast-track, partisan process for passing massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The GOP tax plan, released last week by congressional Republicans and the White House, would overwhelmingly benefit the top 1 percent in Michigan, who would receive 62.5 percent of the tax cuts, a new analysis released by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) shows. In Michigan, taxpayers who make over a million dollars each year (only .2 percent of Michigan’s population) would see an average tax cut of $253,500  while the bottom 20 percent of Michiganians would only see 1.1 percent of the tax cuts—or an average of $70, according to the ITEP analysis. 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.

Not only would these tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the very wealthy, they could also pile trillions onto deficits and likely force further cuts to health coverage and critical programs like education, and job training—and put more pressure on Social Security.

“The president and Congress appear to have the same misguided infatuation with tax cuts that some Michigan legislators have, and with this budget, they could decimate our revenue and devastate the services our state residents depend on,” Holcomb-Merrill said. “But residents still have power. Just as their voices and stories have helped fend off the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a cut to the state income tax, they can fight back against these federal cuts.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

2018 state budget lacks enough measures to improve well-being for children of color

For Immediate Release
September 28, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

 

As new state budget takes effect on Oct. 1, new report analyzes its implications on racial inequity

LANSING—The 2018 state budget takes effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, and with it comes some big wins as well as some major missed opportunities for policymakers to address barriers to opportunity for the state’s children of color, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Despite the many victories in the 2018 state budget, a new report, Making Change: The State Budget as a Tool for Racial and Ethnic Equity, shows that historic and systemic state budget policies are creating significant disparities for people of color in Michigan. The report looks at the 2018 budget through a racial equity lens, reviewing the areas that the League’s annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book examines (economic security, health, education, family and community), and finds the budget still did not do enough to meet the needs of people of color—particularly children.

“Racial issues must be part of the conversation of setting policy. These historical inequities cannot be corrected if lawmakers attempt to create ‘colorblind’ legislation. They must look at data along racial lines to see the implication of the laws they are creating,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the League. “The state budget is seen as a statement of values, and this data shows that legislators need to make racial equity a priority. These issues are hurting our entire state, including our economy and our ability to attract and retain businesses and residents.”

Key Findings:
Some key points to consider for Michigan’s budget and the state’s needs:

  • Three of every 4 African-American students and two-thirds of Latino students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.
  • African-American children in Michigan are eight times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than White children.
  • 55 percent of African-American children live in a home where no parent has full-time, year-round employment, more than double the percentage of non-Hispanic White children. 40 percent of Hispanic or Latino children have a similar lack of economic security.
  • Two out of every 3 African-American children—and half of Latino children—rely on public health insurance programs.
  • Children of color are more frequently born underweight and more likely to die before their first birthdays.
  • Only 10 percent of African-American students and 19 percent of Latino students met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college readiness in 2015-16.
  • 91 percent of the state’s teachers were White—making Michigan’s teaching workforce less diverse than the national average.

Despite this stark data on kids of color, the 2018 budget missed out on some key areas of investment needed to address these disparities, including: income and family support programs; local public health services; revenue sharing for local communities and public safety; early literacy programs; adult education; and financial aid. When developing the state’s budget, lawmakers must examine new and existing policies and investments through a racial equity lens.

If the budget is to positively impact all Michiganians, lawmakers must understand the importance of a more equitable plan to lift up communities of color. The report’s main policy recommendations for lawmakers include:

  • Incorporating an analysis of the racial, ethnic and social justice impact of their budget options and recommendations and making sure it is considered as part of the budget process;
  • Identifying gaps in data about the impact of state spending on communities, families and children of color; and
  • Setting up systems for collecting racial data and other information needed to direct the state’s resources.

“A diverse population is key to a thriving state, and we must invest in children of color from an earlier age and do more to support their parents and communities,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Project Director for the League. “Michigan needs strong leadership by the governor and state lawmakers to address the undeniable and unacceptable racial and ethnic inequities that are holding Michigan back as a state.”

Michigan’s third-grade reading law passed last year is a good example of the unintended negative consequences of “colorblind” legislation. The law was created with positive intentions, but not all students have had the same access to resources, which means they don’t have the same rate of success. In fact, 56 percent of African-American students would have been subject to retention if the law had been implemented in the 2015-2016 school year.

Many kids who are struggling to read in third grade have been facing barriers their whole lives. For the retention law to be successful, it is critical that there be sufficient funding to also address the inadequate early learning opportunities for children of color, including identifying and treating developmental delays, and providing high-quality child care and preschool. Lawmakers must also work to address environmental and economic stressors that play a role in a child’s ability to thrive in school.

The third-grade reading law is just one example. The report highlights dozens of other cases where gaps in the data show the impact of state spending and programs on people of color. The League will continue to provide thorough analysis and passionate advocacy on the state budget and the many other policies that inordinately effect people of color and people with low incomes.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

Report: Michigan’s unemployment rate masks staggering loss of workers, aging workforce

For Immediate Release
September 4, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Since 2000, Michigan has lost 326,000 workers, seen labor participation rate go up for older workers, down for younger workers

LANSING—Since 2000, Michigan’s labor force has lost 326,000 workers, driven largely by a drop in workers 16-24 years old, according to the 2017 Labor Day report released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy. The report shows that while Michigan’s monthly unemployment rate dropped to 3.7 percent for July—the lowest jobless rate since 2000—this decline can be attributed as much to worker attrition as economic improvement.

Workers drop out of a state’s labor force in several ways: physically leaving the state, death, institutionalization (i.e., incarceration), or stopping both work and the search for work (i.e., retirement, disability, staying home with children, etc.). Michigan’s labor force reached its numerical peak of 5.16 million in 2000 and was down to under 4.84 million for 2016, showing a net loss of 326,000 workers.

“How Michigan’s economy is doing depends on which worker or policymaker you talk to and what data you look at,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan’s declining unemployment rate is certainly good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Since the unemployment rate was last this low in 2000, Michigan has been steadily losing workers, and our workforce is getting older, neither of which bodes well for our economic future.”

Michigan’s labor force participation rate, which measures the percent of the civilian population 16 years old and over that is working or looking for work, has been at a historic low for several years. Its high-water mark was 69 percent in 2000, but fell to a low of 60 percent in 2011 and 2012, where it has hovered since, despite the improving unemployment rate. In the same way, while Michigan’s employment-population ratio shows clear improvement since 2011 concurrent with falling unemployment, it is below where it was during the economically difficult years of the early and mid-2000s and the 20 years prior.

Michigan’s labor force has also begun to shift toward older workers. From 1979 (the earliest year data on worker ages is available) to 2000, the share of Michigan’s labor force that was 55 years of age or older was between 10-13 percent annually. Following 2000, however, this age group began comprising a steadily larger share of the workforce, and in 2016 their share (22.2 percent) nearly doubled that in 2000, while the portion in prime working age decreased from 70.4 percent to 62.3 percent over that span.

Younger workers, those from age 16-24, comprised a moderately smaller share of the workforce in 2016 (15.4 percent) than in 2000 (17.9 percent) but considerably smaller than in 1979, when they accounted for more than a quarter of the workforce. In keeping with the pattern of the previous 20 years, 72 percent of residents aged 16-24 were either working or looking for work in 2000. That percentage took a sharp and steady plunge over the following decade, bottoming out near 50 percent in 2011 sitting at 63 percent for 2016.

“We’ve all seen this data in action. Think about your daily life and the variety of workers you encounter in jobs that young people used to hold—a fast food worker, a grocery bagger, a restaurant server,” Jacobs said. “Lawmakers need to look at these changing demographics and embrace policies that help younger and older workers alike get the education, skills and training they need to get the jobs that they want.”

Although a higher portion of older individuals are remaining in the workforce, as they retire there are fewer younger workers to replace them. The League’s Labor Day Report offers the following policy recommendations for legislators to strengthen Michigan’s workforce at both ends of the age scale:

  • Make college education less expensive by lowering tuition and increasing financial aid, which will help cut down on student debt;
  • Encourage universities to offer more academically relevant work-study for students with low incomes so that they may gain meaningful work experience;
  • Make postsecondary training for “middle skills credentials” (a short-term or two-year credential such as a license, certificate or associate degree) more accessible to young people, especially those who live in areas with high unemployment and poverty and few available jobs;
  • Provide support services to young single mothers that encourage them to participate in postsecondary education or training and facilitate their completion and success; and
  • Retain Medicaid expansion in order to help provide healthcare for older workers earning lower wages.

To read the full Labor Day report and see labor force and jobless rate data for all 83 counties, go to www.mlpp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Labor-Day-Sept-2017.pdf.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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 League for Public Policy comments on violence, racism in Charlottesville

For Immediate Release
August 14, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the racist rallies and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“We’ve been searching all day for the right words to address the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend and there simply aren’t any. Both as individuals of varied races, ethnicities and religions and an organization committed to racial equity through public policy, we share the fear and anger over the current state of our country. History is unfortunately repeating itself. This weekend, we saw the same fascism and bigotry we saw in the buildup to World War II and the same racism and violence that tore apart our communities in the ‘60’s. These actions are unforgivable, and they require every individual and every organization that doesn’t share those beliefs to speak out and denounce them.

“As an organization dedicated to building better lives for all people, we will continue to do what we can to remedy longstanding racist policies and the subsequent disparities and injustices that people of color in Michigan and across the country are experiencing. And as people, we will continue to open our arms and our hearts to all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin, their religion, their nationality or citizenry, or any other difference that others will try to use to pull us apart. Our thoughts are with the families who lost a loved one this weekend, the people who were injured, and everyone who this rally was designed to intimidate and scare—we are with you.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

Infant death rate down statewide but significant risks persist for babies of color

For Immediate Release
August 9, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Despite general improvements overall, racial and geographic disparities exist in most maternal and infant health factors

LANSING—When it comes to the health of Michigan infants and their mothers, there are troubling trends by race and ethnicity in infant death rates and other indicators, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s latest Right Start policy report. While the state in general has seen fewer infant deaths and a decline in the share of births to women under the age of 20, there is a significant gap between the deaths of White babies and deaths of African-American and Hispanic infants. This is just one stark difference that validates the need for policy changes and a focus on equity in healthcare.

The report, 2017 Right Start: Infant death rates decline in Michigan, other trends raise concerns, examines nine maternal and infant health indicators statewide, by race and for a select number of cities and townships in Michigan. The 2017 report compares 2010 (2008-2010 three-year average) to 2015 (2013-2015 three-year average) and highlights infant mortality trends in the state. While overall improvement has been made to reduce the number of Michigan babies who die before their first birthdays, the infant death rate increased 15 percent for Hispanic babies and is approaching nearly double the infant death rate of Whites. And African-American babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthdays as White babies.

“It is certainly reassuring that we’re seeing fewer infant deaths statewide and other maternal and infant health factors are improving, but it’s important for us to view the data from all angles and examine these drastic racial disparities,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director with the Michigan League for Public Policy. “The risks facing African-American and Latino babies, especially the high infant death rates, should raise an alarm to policymakers and healthcare providers and draw attention to the need for more holistic policies to support healthy moms and babies.”

Another area in which the gap has widened by race is maternal smoking. The state trends show that the rate of prenatal smoking has remained the same for White women, but the rates for African-American and Latina women worsened over the trend period.

On the whole, Michigan has made gains in regards to the health of moms and babies. The share of births to women under the age of 20 decreased by almost 37 percent from 2010 to 2015 and the rate of second (or more) births to teens already mothers declined by about 6 percent. High school completion rates are rising and teen births are decreasing, which means fewer mothers are giving birth without a high school diploma or GED, an improvement of over 21 percent. Another improvement is that the rate of babies born too small improved by 1 percent, though over 9,500 births were still considered low birthweight.

However, areas of concern remain. Over 6,000 births statewide, or 5.3 percent, were to mothers who either did not receive prenatal care or started care late in their pregnancy. This represents nearly a 10 percent rate increase from 2010. Also worsening over the trend period was the rate of mothers smoking during pregnancy, which stands at over 18 percent, or close to 1 in 5 births. Especially concerning is the rising rate of babies born too early—nearly 14,000 preterm births in 2015, a rate increase of almost 20 percent from 2010.

“We need to examine a complete picture when considering maternal and infant health, and what happens to a mom and her baby in the delivery room is just one piece of that picture. If we’re really going to make a difference in the health of a mom and her baby, it’s necessary to make policy improvements that address dozens of factors, such as the mother’s neighborhood, her relationships, her education and her life experiences,” said Guevara Warren.

Targeting resources and efforts where the highest need exists is critical, which is why the League’s first policy recommendation in the report is for policymakers to reduce disparities by race and ethnicity. For example, attention must be placed on adequate prenatal care for women of color.

Protecting the Affordable Care Act is another key recommendation in the report; the program guarantees maternity health coverage, expanded Medicaid to around 650,000 Michigan residents with low incomes and has helped to provide essential healthcare services for women. The report also recommends expanding home visiting programs to support vulnerable women and infants. In 2016, nearly 35,000 families participated in state-funded home visiting programs, resulting in improved access to prenatal care, fewer preterm births, and increased well-child visits. The League also places emphasis on addressing the social determinants of health.

“Home visiting programs to support vulnerable women and infants have proven very effective and resulted in improved access to prenatal care, fewer preterm births, and increased well-child visits across the state,” said Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal & Child Health. “Not only should these programs receive more support from the state level, but federal lawmakers should work to ensure that successful programs like the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program are reauthorized to continue to support mothers and their babies.”

In addition to the full report, localized press releases and individual profiles of 20 communities can be found at http://www.mlpp.org/kids-count/michigan-2/2017-right-start, including information on local efforts to address maternal health. Information will also be available online at the Kids Count Data Center, http://datacenter.kidscount.org/. For more information on the League’s Kids Count work, go to www.mlpp.org/kids-count.

The state’s three-year 2016-2019 Infant Mortality Reduction Plan was developed to address infant deaths in Michigan and included broad stakeholder engagement and input. The Infant Mortality Advisory Council, which the Michigan League for Public Policy is a member of, was created to implement the goals of the Infant Mortality Reduction Plan and support the actions necessary for statewide involvement—work the report released today will help inform.

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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, 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. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

U.S. House budget strips trillions from everyday Americans while giving huge tax cuts to the wealthy

For Immediate Release
July 19, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Michigan’s congressional delegation should reject the House budget and instead work toward a bipartisan plan that matches our state’s needs and priorities

LANSING—The U.S. House Republicans’ new budget proposal being debated today would make it harder for millions of Michigan families to make ends meet, with drastic cuts to healthcare and key assistance programs. Despite attempts to distance themselves from President Donald Trump’s horrendous budget, House Republicans are advancing a budget that would strip trillions of dollars from middle class and working families while providing tax giveaways to the very wealthy and profitable corporations. The budget also creates a special fast-track process that would allow Republicans to force through massive cuts in public investments and big tax breaks without bipartisan support.

“The House Republican budget proposal has the same fatal flaws as President Trump’s budget plan. It attacks support programs and economic opportunity for millions of struggling Michiganians to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, vice president for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “It would also shift massive costs and likely bring massive cuts to the Michigan budget at a time when our state is already struggling to invest in education, transportation and other services hardworking Michigan residents rely on.”

For Michigan, the budget plan could result in devastating cuts to programs that expand economic opportunity for Michiganians, including job training, education and economic development programs in cities and rural communities. The budget would fall hardest on Michigan residents struggling in today’s economy, with cuts to programs that provide income assistance to help families get back on their feet and help nearly 1.4 million people in Michigan—including 563,753 children—afford groceries through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As Republicans continue their efforts to sabotage healthcare access, the budget includes additional cuts to Medicaid, which helps 2.5 million people in Michigan, including more than 650,000 through the Healthy Michigan Plan.

And underlying the whole budget proposal is a set of false assumptions about economic growth to hide that the proposed tax cuts would dramatically increase deficits and shift ballooning costs to states when revenues fall short of projections.

“The people of Michigan deserve a responsible federal budget proposal from our members of Congress—one that is based on real economic conditions and addresses the real challenges faced by struggling families, not one that uses fuzzy math to justify big tax breaks,” said Holcomb-Merrill. “Instead of fast-tracking cuts that shortchange Michiganians and threaten our state budget and economy, Michigan Republican members of Congress should focus on creating a bipartisan plan that makes investments in programs that match our priorities.”

The League has been tracking the potential disastrous impact of the federal budget on Michigan residents since President Trump’s “skinny budget” came out in March. The League has asserted that the Trump budget is an attack on people living in poverty and the programs that help them provide for their families. The Trump budget would have harmful effects on food assistance, energy security and health, and other programs. While the House’s budget proposal is not an exact replica of the Trump budget, it is largely a continuation of these devastating cuts.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

House budget bills have bright spots, but still raise concerns

For Immediate Release
June 20, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Positives include funding for “heat and eat” fix, Healthy Michigan Plan and increased per-pupil funding

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the budget bills passed out of the House of Representatives today. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“A major goal of the League this year has been to support ‘heat and eat’ to secure additional food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities. Seeing this program funded is reassuring. The budget contains support for other valuable food programs, including ‘double-up food bucks’ in Flint, which helps residents who receive food assistance make their dollars go further when purchasing fruits and vegetables that help combat the effects of lead exposure.

The decision to continue funding the Healthy Michigan Plan is a win for all Michiganians—especially the 660,000 residents who rely on the plan for healthcare.

We are also pleased that the Wayne Residential Alternative to Prison program was supported. It provides low-risk probation violators an opportunity to avoid going to prison and instead enter a residential program in which they receive occupational training and cognitive behavioral programming. The budget not only continues this program, but adds $1.5 million to replicate it in 13 counties on the west side of the state.

One exciting update from today’s budget is the Legislature’s decision to fund the Pathways to Potential program, which places ‘success coaches’ in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families. This important program—left out of an earlier budget—will help students access important services, and the League commends the governor for recommending its expansion. We are also pleased to see the increase in per-pupil funding and expansion of at-risk funds, but believe more should be done in order to help our students.

Though some great wins were announced today, we still have major concerns. This budget was balanced due to a surplus in the Unemployment Insurance Penalties and Interest fund. This surplus, however, is no boon to our state. On the contrary, it is due to a flawed system that wrongly accused nearly 50,000 Michiganians of fraud. This money does not belong to the state, it belongs to the honest citizens who were incorrectly assessed exorbitant fines and penalties. We must rectify this situation and make whole the people who were harmed by the State’s mistake.

Though we are cheered by elements of the budget, the whole picture must be examined. Millions of Michigan residents struggle to get by each day, and our hope is that the final budget will do better to serve them all.”

For additional League statements on the budget process, view our budget briefs.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

Changes to teacher retirement come at a high cost to students, schools

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the House and Senate passage of legislation to change the state’s school employee retirement system. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“These changes to the school retirement system (SB 401 and HB 4647) passed today do little to clear up the state’s fiscal picture while clouding the future of our students, teachers and schools. These bills still come with significant short-term costs and more importantly, do not resolve the broader concerns about the state’s financial obligation to school retirees in previous plans.  At the same time, the League believes that a strong educational system is the key to economic recovery in Michigan. Highly qualified, experienced teachers are the foundation of a high-quality education for children, and this new system will make it even harder for schools to attract and retain teachers and encourage longevity.

“Michigan should be doing all it can to keep top teaching talent in the state and in the classroom. Our state’s dismal national ranking in education—41st—is because of underfunding education and other harmful policies, and we clearly need to put more emphasis on improving Michigan schools. In that regard, today’s bills get failing marks.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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 kids continue to struggle in latest national rankings for child well-being

For Immediate Release
June 13, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman

arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Michigan ranks high-risk on almost every child indicator since 2014, finishing in bottom 10 for education

LANSING, Mich., June 13, 2017 — Michigan is lagging in nearly every aspect of child well-being, with a particularly alarming performance in education, according to the 2017 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

With the state backsliding in three out of four education indicators measured by the Casey Foundation, Michigan is ranked as one of the highest-risk states in the country for education outcomes. This is just the latest evidence that shows we need to improve public policy to better support Michigan kids.

“Anyone who is concerned about the future of Michigan should take notice of this data, because our state’s struggles in child well-being today will be economic, employment and budgetary problems in the future,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “While the importance of early childhood education and the need to improve third-grade reading proficiency have both received more attention lately in Lansing, the state clearly needs to take a more comprehensive approach to turn around our dismal ranking.”

Overall, Michigan ranked 32nd in child well-being in the 2017 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 each state 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. Just 3 percent of Michigan children lack coverage, an improvement on the national average of 5 percent.

“Michigan lawmakers are always talking about ways to make Michigan a more appealing state, but no one is going to want to stay or move here to raise a family when our kids don’t have an opportunity to thrive,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Minnesota is consistently one of the top states in the nation in child well-being. They don’t achieve that by cutting taxes — they achieve that by investing in education from pre-school to higher education and other state services that people need. That is what Michigan legislators should be looking to emulate.”

The KIDS COUNT Data Book illustrates that Michigan’s so-called recovery is still not reaching many working families. Nearly half a million Michigan kids — around one in five — live in poverty. Additionally, almost 700,000 Michigan kids — roughly one-third of the state’s child population — live in a family where no parent has full-time employment. While the state’s unemployment rate has improved, many parents are working multiple or seasonal jobs for meager wages and are one unexpected expense away from a financial crisis.

Child poverty as a whole — as well as the 17 percent of kids living in high-poverty neighborhoods — are of concern for the state, and Michigan legislators should pursue a two-generation policy strategy that would better help kids and their parents thrive. This approach should include introducing affordable child care, equitable workplace policies, higher wages and investment in adult education.

“The U.S. continues to have one of the highest child poverty rates among all developed countries,” said Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform and advocacy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “This unfairly burdens our young people and the nation, costing an estimated $500 billion a year in reduced economic opportunities and increased health and criminal justice-related costs.”

To fix these problems in Michigan, the League recommends: improving access and quality of prenatal care in Michigan; ensuring access to affordable, quality child care by raising eligibility levels for state child care subsidies and reforming the current system; and restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of the federal credit.

Supplementing the Casey Foundation’s look at nationwide data through the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book is the annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book from the Michigan League for Public Policy. The Michigan Data Book has state-level and county-by-county data and rankings. The two reports work in concert to annually illustrate where child well-being stands in America, in Michigan and in each county.

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book is available at www.aecf.org/resources/2017-kids-count-data-book. Additional information is available at www.aecf.org/databook, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Data Book can use the KIDS COUNT 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.

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Department of Health and Human Services budget has bright spots, but misses many opportunities

For Immediate Release
June 8, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Positives include funding for “heat and eat” fix, Healthy Michigan Plan and healthy food incentives for Flint

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Department of Health and Human Services budget passed out of conference committee today. It can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“Health and human services have always been a focus for the League, especially in the context of the major cuts to federal programs that the president has proposed. Using our human services budget priorities as a scorecard, today’s legislation is mostly a draw.

“One of our focal points since last year’s budget has been fixing ‘heat and eat’ to secure additional food assistance for hundreds of thousands of Michigan families, seniors and people with disabilities, bringing in more federal dollars in the process, so we are very happy to see that continue on in this budget. Another positive in today’s budget is funding for double-up food bucks in Flint, which enables residents who receive food assistance to stretch their dollars further when purchasing healthy fruits and vegetables that help combat the effects of lead exposure. Another big win is that the state continued to fund the Healthy Michigan Plan that provides healthcare for 660,000 residents—though the shadow of the federal American Health Care Act that will eliminate it still looms.

“We are disappointed that there was no funding included today for the expansion of the Pathways to Potential program that places ‘success coaches’ in schools to identify barriers faced by students and their families and make appropriate referrals for needed services. The program is currently in 259 schools in 34 counties and has been proven to be effective, and we had hoped the Legislature would follow the governor’s recommendation to expand it to other parts of the state. There was also no increase for the clothing allowance for children in families that receive cash assistance, which is another area we emphasize each year and another area that we hoped would see an increase per the governor’s request.

“Pieces of this budget still reflect some of the growing sentiment in Washington that ‘poverty is a state of mind’ and health and human services for people who are struggling are the ideal places to cut. Our various reports and analyses show that many people in Michigan are working but still living in poverty and are one unexpected expense away from financial disaster. They are doing their best to get by but still need this support to survive. We will keep fighting to support all people in Michigan, especially our most physically and economically vulnerable residents.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.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.

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