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

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2018

Contact:
Karen Holcomb Merrill
karenhm@mlpp.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.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.