Many bright spots in governor’s budget, but cloud of tax cut still looms

For Immediate Release
February 8, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517-487-5436

Governor’s budget includes funding for many League priorities that support kids, workers and families

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on Governor Rick Snyder’s 2018 budget presented this morning. This statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President & CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The governor’s budget today is very positive and includes money for many of the programs and services that help struggling workers and families. The League has been a champion for leveraging federal funds to support important state services, and the budget includes $6.8 million to draw down the federal money needed to keep the Heat and Eat program going and $8.4 million in state funds for child care to secure much-needed federal funding. The budget upholds continued funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan, which provides healthcare for more than 600,000 Michiganians with low incomes under the Affordable Care Act, and we appreciate Governor Snyder’s continued commitment to protecting that successful program in Michigan.

“We are pleased to see an increase in school funding for at-risk students to help address the extra support that students struggling with poverty and hunger and toxic stress need, and a $60-per-child increase in the state’s school clothing allowance that helps provide clothes for children living in families with low incomes. Today’s budget included funding for the Part-Time Independent Student Grant to help adult students pursue a college degree, something the League has been advocating for years. And we appreciate the governor’s continued call for investment in infrastructure and support for the people of Flint to help them recover and get clean water.

“But all of these encouraging investments could disappear tomorrow if the Legislature goes against the governor’s budget and cuts the state income tax, eroding $250 million to $9 billion from the state’s funds. Kansas and several other states have already made this mistake and suffered severe consequences, and now Republican legislators there are scrambling to undo the policy. If legislators really want to help the people of Michigan, especially those who are barely getting by, they should pass these positive investments, not something that will undermine them.”

The League’s support of the Heat and Eat program was even quoted in the governor’s executive budget (Page 46) released today. The League also continues to warn against the damage a cut to the state income tax could cause, and Kansas, one of the states that has passed a similar measure, is already looking to repeal it.

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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.

From first-generation college student to social justice warrior

As a child, my mother always motivated my brother and I to achieve through public education. In her heart, she knew that being educated would be the only route that we would have out of poverty.

As a kid in elementary school, I faced two main challenges: 1) English was not my first language, and 2) my mother’s lack of education prevented her from being able to help me with my academics. Living in a predominantly Mexican American community in San Bernardino, California, my teachers faced extra pressures in aiding my development. I found myself falling behind due to my inability to complete homework assignments. For a while, my brother who is one year ahead of me held the responsibility of trying to teach me various subjects. Finally, I received an invitation to participate in an after-school program to address my needs.

During my seventh grade year, my mother made the decision to move to Michigan. While I adjusted well to Hazel Park Junior High, I faced a different set of problems once I reached high school.

High school is supposed to be a time to prepare for college. I admit, I started off in Honors classes, but dropped all of them due to personal issues. Not one counselor was there to guide me. Living in a low-income area, I did not have the resources to be a competitive applicant to colleges and universities. My school only offered a couple of Advanced Placement courses, which I did not qualify for. During my sophomore year, Hazel Park High School started receiving assistance from the Michigan State University (MSU) College Advising Corps. With their help, I was able to get accepted into MSU on a system of academic probation.

As I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma, I had an overwhelming feeling of uneasiness. I attended an institution that was on Michigan’s priority schools list. I knew I was not academically prepared to attend MSU in the fall. During the summer of 2014, I attended a seven-week summer bridge program, TRiO, which is designed to foster college readiness for first-generation attendees and students whose families are struggling financially. This made a major difference and I am proud to say that I am now thriving in my junior year because of my mother, myself and the help I received.

As my story shows, many people cannot simply “pull themselves up,” and it takes more than willpower to succeed in the United States. After gaining an understanding about the institutional barriers that prevent the advancement of communities of color and people facing poverty in Michigan and beyond, I am now an advocate for the allocation of resources to fix these problems. I have faced my share of hurdles and now want to help others who are in my shoes do the same. I am interning with the League because they understand what is needed to help all Michiganians succeed—such as access to child care, early learning, paid leave and healthy food—as well as the importance of diversity and inclusion.

— Janice Mendoza

First day jitters teach me a lesson too

My only child—a sweet, smart and independent little boy—started kindergarten this month. We did a special pancake breakfast, a new first day outfit and pictures, and then headed off to school where he quickly said goodbye and joined his class. I’d like to say that I held it together, but anyone who knows me could tell you I didn’t.

Yes, he was nervous. He didn’t like going to a different school than his friends, and worried about meeting new ones. He was nervous about before- and after-care. And he was worried about not having enough lunch. I try to tell him that kindergarten is awesome and that it’s great that he’s learning new things and meeting new friends, but I’m still worried too.

kids-raising-hands-upI’m worried he won’t have the same excitement about school and learning that I had. I’m afraid he won’t be able to keep up. Michigan’s standardized tests continue to show that our students are falling behind in many areas, resulting in changes to the curricula and assessments. I worry about the number of changes that my son will have to go through, and what ultimately these tests will show. And with skyrocketing costs of a college education, I worry about my ability to send him to whatever school he may want to attend.

However, at the same time, I know that I am fortunate.

Having to work, I was able to find and afford a child care program that put an important emphasis on early learning. Going into kindergarten, my son already knew colors, letters, numbers and animals. He could speak a little Spanish. And he could write a few words and add. All of this as a result of child care. There are many Michigan families that cannot afford high-quality child care, who must either not work or piece together child care through neighbors, friends or family. Rather than helping, state policies stand to make things worse.

As a parent, we strive to send our child to the best college we can. While my son was still very young, I started accounts with both the Michigan Education Trust and the Michigan Education Savings Program. These allow me to save now, to take the pressure off of paying for college when the time comes, and to hopefully prevent my son from being saddled with college debt.

I also can provide my son with things I believe should be common rights—clean water, a good public school system, enough healthy food to sustain him, and libraries and other enrichment programs. These basic needs are still not being met for too many kids.

Starting school has taught me a lot about why I do what I do. Parents shouldn’t have to choose between working and caring for their child. Children shouldn’t have to worry about whether their family can afford lunch. And paying for college should not be an insurmountable task. All families, all children, all Michiganians deserve a chance to succeed. And the state shouldn’t be making it harder for them to do so.

If we can all make it a little easier for those who are struggling, we will make life better for everyone.

— Rachel Richards

League says Great Start report underscores need for urgent action to invest in, improve child care

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Lawmakers have 16 days—and three session days—to act before $20M in federal child care dollars disappears

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy continued its push for greater investment in child care, issuing the following statement on a new research report released today by the Michigan Department of Education-Office of Great Start and Public Sector Consultants, Inc. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. (more…)

I’m done riding the revenue roller coaster

I hate roller coasters—they make my head hurt and I can never get my feet back under me after riding one. But twice a year, I ride one as I wait to see whether state revenues will come in above projections, below targets or on track. Yesterday’s revenue estimating conference made it clear that we will have some tough budget decisions to make for next year, but the truth is that it shouldn’t be like this.

The good news is that revenues, year after year, are projected to grow. However, Michigan’s growth isn’t as robust as we originally predicted only five months ago. This means that there will be less to work with when deciding funding priorities in next year’s budget, potentially leaving many Michigan residents, communities and schools further behind. Thankfully, Michigan is able to get federal funds for various programs, and lawmakers should review the budget and fund those areas, such as child care and the Heat and Eat program, for maximum impact. (more…)

Earned Paid Sick Days Support Public Health for All Children and Families

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children and adults should stay home 24 hours after fevers subside. But most workers are not able to stay home when they’re obviously ill, let alone when they may still be contagious despite feeling physically better. In doing so, they put their coworkers, their customers and the general public at risk. Unfortunately, that does not outweigh the risks of losing a paycheck or even a job.

In a 2013 survey commissioned by Oxfam America, 1 out of 7 low-wage workers and 1 out of 5 low-wage mothers reported losing a job because they were sick or needed to care for a family member. Too many workers lose pay and risk workplace discipline and even termination when they take time off, so they often choose to go to work sick. Adults without earned paid sick days are 1.5 times more likely than adults with paid sick days to report going to work with a contagious illness like the flu or a viral infection. Moreover, these adults are also more likely to delay needed medical care which can lead to greater health complications that cost more money.

When working people have no choice but to go to work sick, they risk infecting others and delay seeking care. The lack of earned paid sick days is especially risky in food service and other jobs requiring frequent contact with the public:

  • More than 310,000 people in Michigan work in restaurants, an industry where most workers lack paid sick days. This puts workers and customers at risk for contagious illnesses like the flu or norovirus also known as “stomach flu.”
  • Child care and nursing home workers also often lack paid sick time putting the most vulnerable populations at risk.
  • In 2013, roughly 56,979 people died from influenza and pneumonia.

Earned paid sick days enable working parents to care for children and other loved ones when they are sick.

  • Nearly 1,500,000 children in Michigan live in families in which all parents work, including 2 of every 3 young children ages 0-5.
  • Earned paid sick days keep children healthy, prevent absences among teachers and students, and limit the spread of contagious diseases.
It’s a Win Win

Earned paid sick days benefit our economy . . .

Earned paid sick days decrease unnecessary healthcare costs. Universal access to paid sick days would eliminate an estimated 1.3 million emergency room visits each year, saving $1.1 billion annually in costs to individuals, private insurers, and public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

AND benefit public health.

People who are able to stay home when they’re sick prevent the spread of illness and keep us all healthier.

When parents can take time off, long-term health outcomes improve for themselves and their loved ones.

Having earned paid sick leave for all workers improves the health of individuals, children and families and the public at large. Support the move to secure paid sick leave in Michigan by taking action today! Visit http://mitimetocare.org.

 

 

Schools out! Why some kids aren’t as excited for summer

As we counted down the last days of the school year, most of us were excited planning our summer vacations and camps. At the same time, too many kids were wondering how they were going to eat over the summer – something most of us take for granted. (more…)

House Subcommittee Rejects Governor’s Third Grade Reading Initiative

 

The Senate subcommittee developing next year’s education budget endorsed Gov. Snyder’s forward-thinking initiative to ensure that children can read proficiently by third grade. Only the day before, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education had rejected most of the governor’s recommendations and left children without early interventions needed to meet that critical educational milestone.

The next step is for the subcommittee bills to be acted on by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Their versions of the bills will be sent to the floors of the House and Senate for debate and approval. Any differences between the final House and Senate versions will be worked out in joint House/Senate conference committees. Legislative leaders have said they would like to complete action on the budgets by the end of May.

A recent League report shows that the ability to read by the end of third grade is central to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and ability to contribute to the state’s economy. But almost two of every five Michigan third-graders do not demonstrate reading proficiency on the MEAP, with one in four scoring at the lowest level.

The research is clear: Learning begins in infancy, with the most rapid and critical brain development occurring during the first three years of life. States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions. The governor’s 2016 initiative recognizes the importance of the early years and deserves support.

Governor’s Reading Initiative and Legislative Actions to Date

There are three basic components to the governor’s third grade reading initiative. Below are the governor’s recommendations and actions taken by the House and Senate subcommittees:

(1) Investment of $23.6 million in federal funds for improvements in child care quality and access, funded through the Department of Education budget.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • $6.1 million for provider payment increases for licensed child care centers and homes that accept children with a state subsidy, and that have at least two stars on Michigan’s five-star quality rating system.
  • $16 million to allow families to remain eligible for the child care subsidy for up to one year, even if their incomes rise.
  • $1.5 million to allow families to earn up to 250% of poverty without losing child care subsidies—but only if families initially qualified at the current eligibility threshold of 121% of poverty.
  • $5.7 million to hire more child care inspectors needed to ensure that state-licensed child care centers and homes are meeting basic health and safety requirements.

The number of low-wage working families able to receive a child care subsidy has dropped by nearly 70% since 2003, in part because of the state’s low eligibility rates and provider payments. As a result, Michigan has unspent federal child care funds that the governor proposes to use to enhance quality and expand access. While this is a small step forward in a grossly underfunded system, it moves the state in the right direction after years of neglect for the well-being of thousands of vulnerable infants and toddlers whose parents must work to support their basic needs.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate subcommittee approved all of the governor’s recommended changes for child care. The House subcommittee rejected the expansion of child care licensing consultants, but approved the other child care enhancements. The increases in child care rates and eligibility were included in a supplemental budget bill recently signed by the governor, so will be implemented in the current budget year. Funds to expand child care licensing staff were not part of the supplemental budget bill.

(2) The dedication of $25 million in School Aid funds for services to support families and encourage early literacy, as well as improve reading instruction in grades K-3.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • $5 million for home visiting programs for at-risk families to encourage early literacy activities.
  • $1 million for parent education pilot programs.
  • $5.9 million for testing and professional development for elementary teachers and administrators to ensure they have the best tools to diagnose and improve reading difficulties in children, along with literacy coaches for K-3 teachers.
  • $10 million for additional instruction time (before, during or after school, or in the summer) for children who need extra assistance.
  • $2.6 million for continued implementation of the Kindergarten Entry Assessment.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate subcommittee approved the governor’s recommended third grade reading initiative, and added an extra $10 million for additional instruction time for students who are not on track with reading skills. The House subcommittee rejected the governor’s third grade reading initiative.

(3) An additional $100 million for children at risk of falling behind their peers academically, with funds to be used in part to ensure that children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Governor’s Proposal:

  • An increase of $100 million in At Risk School Aid funding—the first significant increase since 2001—bringing total funding to $409 million.
  • Funds would continue to be allocated to districts based on the number of students eligible for free meals, giving additional resources to districts educating a high number of low-income children.
  • At Risk funds are to continue to be used to improve third grade reading, as well as ensure that youths are career and college ready when they graduate from high school.

Legislative Actions to Date: The Senate Subcommittee approved the additional $100 million for At Risk services, and added language that requires that at least 50% of the increase be spent on third grade reading—in addition to existing spending. The House Subcommittee rejected the increase in At Risk funds.

Early Intervention Can Improve Reading Skills

High-quality child care allows parents to work to support their children, and prepares children to succeed in school.

  • Child care is both a support for working parents and employers, and an environment where children learn. More than half of children under age 5 are in child care at least part of the week, and while high-quality child care can help them succeed in school, low-quality care can threaten their health, safety and development.
  • Increases in child care payment rates and eligibility proposed by the governor and endorsed by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees on School Aid/Education help to improve child care quality and allow parents to keep care longer even if their income rises. State policies, including low provider payments and income eligibility thresholds have contributed to a 70% drop in the number of families provided subsidies, and this trend needs to be reversed if Michigan is going to be a “comeback state for all.” A lack of access to affordable child care has made it impossible for many parents to work to support their children, and the economy has suffered. For example, a single mother with two children in care earning $11 an hour who gets a 50-cent raise (bringing income to $23,880 for a family of three) would lose her state child care subsidy, and child care costs would jump from about $3,000 per year to $18,000—a complete barrier to work. The quality and stability of a child’s relationships, including with child care providers, are critical to healthy development and future school success.
  • Although not part of the governor’s budget or the subcommittee budgets, an increase in the initial entry-level eligibility rate for child care, which has been at 121% of poverty since 2003, is needed to help low-wage parents enter the workforce. While it is helpful that parents may be able to keep their child care longer, even with small wage increases, Michigan still will have the second lowest initial income eligibility thresholds for child care in the country. An increase in the entry eligibility level from 121% to 150% of poverty would be a good start.
  • At a minimum, the state must ensure that all children in licensed child care are in settings that comply with basic state health and safety requirements. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education rejected the governor’s proposal to increase the number of child care inspectors charged with ensuring that licensed child care centers and homes meet basic state health and safety regulations. Recent federal audits have found serious problems in Michigan’s oversight of child care safety, including the failure to do all required criminal record and protective services background checks for people coming in contact with young children, as well as hazardous conditions such as blocked fire exits, unsupervised toddlers, and chemicals within reach of children. The governor and Senate subcommittee have supported funding for additional child care inspectors, bringing Michigan from one of the highest ratios of inspectors to child care providers (1:153) to the national average (1:98).

The governor’s recommendation to invest in early intervention services is an important step in improving children’s ability to read by third grade.

  • Efforts to help children read must begin long before they reach third grade or even kindergarten. Because the most rapid and critical brain development occurs in the first three years of life, programs that foster maternal and infant mental and physical health are critical. Examples include prenatal care, childhood lead poisoning prevention, home visiting programs that help parents with early literacy activities, and better efforts to identify infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays through the state’s Early On program.
  • Family income is the most reliable indicator of academic success, and Michigan must more aggressively address poverty and economic opportunity, including the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit (included in Proposal 1), and income assistance policies that provide families with some stability as they get additional education and training and enter the workforce. National tests show that four of every five Michigan fourth-graders from families with incomes below or marginally above the poverty level ($24,000 for a family of four in 2013) did not demonstrate proficiency in reading in 2013 compared with roughly one of every two higher-income students. Students from low-income families are more likely to face barriers such as illness, transportation problems, no access to high-quality child care, unhealthy housing, mobility, homelessness and unsafe neighborhoods.

 

Governor’s Proposal Continues Healthy Kids Dental Expansion

 

The Healthy Kids Dental program is a public-private partnership between the Department of Community Health and Delta Dental of Michigan. The program is available to Medicaid-eligible children under age 21 in all but three counties. The program, administered by Delta Dental, uses Delta’s commercial network of dentists and pays higher rates than Medicaid.

Kalamazoo and Macomb counties were added Oct. 1, 2014, bringing the total number of children covered to 611,000 but leaving a large population of lowincome kids behind in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties – nearly 400,000 kids.

The governor’s recommendation for the budget starting Oct. 1, 2015 includes $7.5 million in state funds, for a total of $22 million with federal funds, to expand Healthy Kids Dental coverage to children under age 9 in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties. This proposal would add another 210,000 children to the program for a total of 821,000, but leaves behind more than 170,000 children age 9 and older.

Michigan needs a comprehensive approach to third grade reading

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical benchmark for future academic success, so Michigan policymakers have been seriously considering strategies to improve the chances that more children will reach this goal. After third grade, children read to learn, and half the curriculum materials in fourth-grade require grade-level reading skills. Three of four third-graders who struggle to master reading will continue to struggle as high school students. A comprehensive approach is needed to improve early literacy for children in Michigan.

(more…)

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