Third grade reading, adult ed must be restored

For Immediate Release
March 24, 2015

Contact: Stacey Range Messina
smessina@mlpp.org
517.487.5436 |  517.214.5994 after 3 p.m.

 

New reports prove need for investments, not cuts

LANSING – A House Appropriations subcommittee today eliminated all funding next year for adult education and for Gov. Snyder’s proposed third grade reading initiative, bucking recommendations of two new reports proving the dire need to boost both areas.

Promoting Early Literacy in Michigan,” released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy, asserts 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 nation’s economy. But in 2013 almost two of every five Michigan third-graders did not demonstrate reading proficiency on the MEAP, according to the Michigan Department of Education. About 10,000 of those 40,000 students scored at the most elementary level. Most students who fail to achieve this critical milestone fall further behind and often drop out before earning a high school diploma.

Willing to Work and Ready to Learn: More Adult Education Would Strengthen Michigan’s Economy,” released by the Michigan League for Public Policy earlier this month, shows that too few adults are getting the basic skills education they need to succeed in occupational training and find a way out of low-paying, dead-end jobs and into careers that can support their families.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget recommendation included $25 million for a third grade reading initiative and $22 million for adult education programs.

The House K-12 School Aid Subcommittee removed those items during its meeting this morning. Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Twp. and chair of the committee, said he suspected the reading funds would be restored before the final budget.

“For the subcommittee to remove this funding is extremely shortsighted,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan is not reaching anywhere near enough of the working age adults who lack basic skills to be part of the state’s workforce development push and too many of Michigan’s children can’t read by the end of third grade. We need to boost these programs, not cut the little funding available now.

“Rep. Kelly and some of his colleagues may have witnessed this problem as they visited local schools during National Reading Month and read to the students over the past few weeks,” Jacobs continued. “We applaud every legislator’s attempt to connect with their local school children by reading them a book, but what kids really need is for these policymakers to invest in their families and help more kids become better readers so they can succeed in life.”

The Senate Appropriations K-12, Education and School Aid Subcommittee is scheduled to take up its own funding bill Wednesday morning.

Today’s early literacy report details how policymakers could make huge gains in third-grade reading proficiency by addressing poverty and strengthening existing early intervention programs.

Research shows that family income is the most reliable predictor of academic success, and that efforts to help children must begin long before they reach third grade or even kindergarten. In Michigan, school districts with larger percentages of low-income students also had larger percentages of students performing below proficiency. Students from low-income families are more likely to face barriers such as illness, transportation problems, no access to quality child care or enrichment activities, unhealthy housing, mobility, homelessness, and unsafe neighborhoods.

National tests show that four of every five Michigan fourth-graders from families with income 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.

Well-established research also shows that learning starts in infancy, long before formal learning begins, with the most rapid and critical development occurring in the first three years of life. As such, programs that foster maternal and infant mental and physical health are key strategies to improve optimum physical, cognitive and social-emotional development. States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions.

“Schools alone cannot solve this problem,” said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the League’s Kids Count in Michigan Project Director and author of the report. “Michigan has a variety of programs that provide the foundation to literacy and academic achievement, but policymakers have not directed funding to address the level of need nor have they supported policies to improve economic security. These issues are well-known to have a negative impact on child health and academic achievement.”

The report includes a series of recommendations to improve literacy among early elementary children in Michigan, including providing adequate funding to existing systems for young children and their families such as prenatal care, childhood lead poisoning prevention, Early On, the child care subsidy, and Healthy Kids Dental. The League also recommends addressing the role and causes of poverty by increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit (included in Proposal 1), reforming the criminal justice system that disproportionately affects communities of color, and enacting policies that support successful re-entry after prison.

“Without addressing these critical issues and investing in programs that are proven to work, our children will continue to struggle with reading and no number of visiting readers can fix that,” Jacobs said.

 

# # #

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.

 

Why kids count

Recent news reports celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate and the quickened tempo of the recovery. But four years into the recovery, Michigan’s child poverty rates remain consistently high.

In 2013, one of every four children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level (roughly $18,800 for a single-parent family of three and $23,600 for a two-parent family of four), according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released today. (more…)

Many kids stuck in poverty without solutions

Contact: Judy Putnam or Jane Zehnder-Merrell, 517.487.5436

Kids Count in Mich. ranks 82 counties on child well-being

LANSING, Mich. – Too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty at a time when policymakers have reduced help for struggling families, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015 released today.

Three measures of economic conditions worsened over the trend period with nearly one in every four children living in an impoverished household, a 35 percent increase in child poverty over six years. The trend period measured from 2006 to 2012 or 2013, depending on the availability of data.

“The unraveling of family’s economic security cries out to be addressed by state leaders but what’s happened is just the opposite of what is needed,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan Project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The state Earned Income Tax Credit was cut 70 percent in 2011. It goes to working families earning the least. (Voting ‘yes’ on the May 5 road funding proposal will restore it to 20 percent.) Other barriers are hard caps on lifetime limits for cash assistance, fewer weeks of unemployment, an asset test that limits federally funded food assistance, and child care subsidies that haven’t kept up with inflation.

“These are the tools we have to make sure a family in a crisis doesn’t spiral downward and is able to survive. The shredding of these programs is bad policy when it comes to the well-being of Michigan’s children,’’ Zehnder-Merrell said. “It’s hoped that the merger of the state departments of Community Health and Human Services will offer improved services for children and families, though budget pressures could bring more cuts.’’

In addition, Michigan in recent years eliminated financial aid grants for adults attending public colleges and universities and slashed adult education to a fraction of where it was a decade ago.

The toxic effect of poverty on children cannot be overstated. Research shows that children growing up in poor homes are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to have stable employment as adults. Boosting income in those families through such strategies as tax credits pays off with children in those families earning more and working more hours when they grow up.

More than a half-million Michigan kids lived in poverty, defined as $23,600 or less a year for a two-parent family of four. Child poverty is particularly high in communities of color where a lack of jobs and transportation has deepened economic woes. Detroit, a majority African-American city, has the highest level of concentrated poverty of the 50 largest U.S. cities, a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found.

The Kids Count report also highlights the racial inequity in access to oral health that needs to be addressed in the 2016 budget. The Healthy Kids Dental program, which provides additional payments to dentists for children on Medicaid, is in 80 counties. The three remaining counties left out of the program, Wayne, Oakland and Kent, have large populations of children of color.

That means that only 28 percent of white children eligible for Medicaid are in counties without Healthy Kids Dental compared with 63 percent of African-American children eligible for Medicaid.

“Gov. Snyder has called for the Healthy Kids Dental to be available in all communities. That needs to happen this year. Using public dollars in a way that mainly benefits white children and leaves out African American children is simply unacceptable,’’ said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Of the 15 trends in child well-being examined in the report, eight improved, five worsened, one stayed about the same and one could not be tracked over time. The report also ranks 82 of the 83 counties for overall child well-being with Livingston and Ottawa counties tied for the best rating of No. 1.

Statewide, all four education trends improved while fewer children remained in foster homes or relative care. Yet nearly 200,000 children live in families investigated for abuse or neglect, a 41 percent jump in the rate between 2006 and 2013, while nearly 34,000 were confirmed as victims of abuse or neglect.

A partner in the release of the Kids Count report, Matt Gillard, president and CEO of Michigan’sChildren, said p revention and early intervention are the keys to ensuring safety at home.

“It’s so very important that we focus on interventions that work – the earlier the better. This includes increasing evidence-based services for the most challenged families in local communities to prevent child abuse or neglect, and targeting services to vulnerable families with infants,’’ Gillard said. “A two-generation approach that helps parents get the resources and tools that they need, while at the same time supporting children, is critical.”

The Michigan Coalition for Children and Families, representing 20 child and family advocacy groups across the state, will use the report to focus on improvements to benefit children.

“This report offers communities and state level officials a treasure trove of information so they can know what’s working and what needs to be improved,’’ said Michele Strasz, chair of MCCF and the director of the Capital Area College Access Network.

More contact information: Matt Gillard, matt@michiganschildren.org, 517.488.9129 (c); Michele Strasz, programdirector@capitalareacan.org, 517.712.2014 (c).

###

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 Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation and John E. Fetzer Fund of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

‘Yes’ on road funding is right direction

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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It’s a pivotal time for Michigan public policy. Decisions made in the next few months will determine the path Michigan takes into the future.

In three short months, voters on May 5 will decide Proposal 1, the road funding package. There’s no doubt that this is Michigan’s single best chance to raise sorely needed money to pay for road repairs and put new dollars into school classrooms all while protecting families earning the least. (more…)

More child care oversight needed

Every day in Michigan, parents head out to work with their young children in tow, dropping them off at local child care centers or homes. Child care is a necessity for many working families because they rely on two incomes to make ends meet or because they are raising children as single parents.

Yet oversight of health and safety requirements is stretched far too thin in Michigan, a new policy brief from the League concludes. (more…)

Maintaining cultural ties and family stability for American Indian Children

American Indian children in Michigan are the most likely to be removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect: 1.5 times the rate of white children and the highest of all children of color in the state, according to the Michigan Race Equity Coalition. They are also more likely to age out of the foster care system. It is disturbing, however, that the rate of investigation for abuse and/or neglect is lower compared with white children. (more…)

‘Heat and eat’ — another squandered opportunity

Michigan is being penny-wise and pound-foolish, refusing to pay $3 million to bring in $137 million in federal food assistance to 150,000 low-income households.

There are two issues in play here. The first is is that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps) does not keep up with family food costs. The second is that Michigan has been able to raise SNAP benefits by an average of $76 per household, but now refuses to do so. (more…)

Oh Michigan!

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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‘O’ stands for October — and it also stands for Opportunity.

With just a few short weeks before the Nov. 4 election, now is your best chance as a concerned Michigan citizen to make a difference. (more…)

Failure to Invest in High-Quality Child Care Hurts Children and State’s Economy

Child care is a necessity for working parents and a key ingredient in the state’s recipe for economic growth. Access to safe, stable and high-quality child care reduces employee absenteeism and turnover and improves businesses’ bottom line. And, because learning begins at birth, it is in child care that many children are developing the basic language, cognitive and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and beyond.

For low-wage workers, child care has become increasingly unaffordable, often rivaling or exceeding housing costs. The state’s child care subsidy program has not adequately met the need, and since 2005, the number of low-income Michigan parents receiving publicly subsidized care has dropped by two-thirds, from nearly 65,000 to only 22,000. Total child care spending fell from $479 million in 2005 to just $136 million in 2014—a reduction of over 70%.

While changes in the economy, including high unemployment, undoubtedly had some impact, policy decisions—including Michigan’s continuing low child care subsidy eligibility levels and provider payments—have been major contributors to Michigan’s inadequate child care system.

Very Young Children Are Most At Risk

The underfunding of Michigan’s child care system is particularly troubling because of the high numbers of very young, low-income children in care while their parents work. In June 2014, 40% of all the children in state-subsidized child care were under the age of 4, and over 60% were under age 6.1

Michigan has too few licensing inspectors to ensure that even basic health and safety standards are met. Placing very young children in care of unknown or questionable safety and quality is a risk Michigan can’t afford to take given the scientifically documented importance of the first years of life in terms of lifelong learning and development. It is during the earliest years that the very architecture of the brain is constructed—a window of opportunity to prime children for success in school and life.

Communities Have Lost State Funding That is Needed to Keep Families Working

The reduction in state child care payments to local communities has economic repercussions. Parents find it increasingly difficult to secure reliable, consistent child care, making it more difficult for them to keep their jobs and provide for their children. Child care providers—an important sector of the state’s workforce—continue to struggle to bridge the gap between their costs and what parents can afford to pay. And, children who spend large portions of their first 2,000 days of life in low-quality child care can face greater hurdles as they transition to school and ultimately into the workforce.

The impact of reduced spending is felt acutely in Michigan’s most populous counties, where more than two-thirds (67%) of the children in state-subsidized child care reside. For example, between January 2007 and January 2014, the average monthly number of children in state-subsidized child care fell nearly 76% in Wayne County, from 38,910 to 9,408, while state funding fell from $16.4 million to $2.5 million. In Kent County, the number of children fell 69%, from 7,314 to 2,283, while payments fell from approximately $3 million to $567,000.

While the impact of child care subsidy caseload reductions and funding losses affects counties and regions of the state somewhat differently, all counties have experienced steep declines. For example, in Southeast Michigan, the decline in average monthly child care spending between January 2007 and January 2014 ranged from 63% in Livingston County to 84% in Wayne.

An Overview of Michigan’s Child Development and Care Program

Michigan’s Child Development and Care program provides child care subsidies to: (1) public assistance recipients; (2) low-income working families with incomes below 121% of poverty ($22,448 for a family of three); (3) licensed foster parents caring for foster children; and (4) families with open child protective services or preventive services cases.2 Most children eligible for subsidized care (65%) in fall 2013 lived in low-income working families; roughly another quarter (23%) lived in families receiving public assistance while working or participating in another approved activity.

Child care subsidies are available for eligible children under the age of 13, as well as children between the ages of 13 and 18 in cases where there are health or disability reasons or a court order. According to state policy, there are four valid reasons for care: (1) family preservation; (2) high school completion; (3) participation in an activity approved by the state; and (4) employment.

Between 2012 and July 2014, Michigan covered only 80 hours of child care in a two-week period—down from a high of 140 hours. The Legislature approved the governor’s recommendation to increase reimbursable care to 90 hours biweekly beginning July 27, 2014. Thirty-two states do not impose caps on the hours of care, and of the states that do, Michigan’s is the lowest, with the average cap being 120 hours biweekly.3

Under federal law, parents are allowed to choose the type of child care settings that best meet their family’s needs, with the following options in Michigan:

  • Child care centers – Facilities, other than private homes, licensed to care for groups of children.
  • Group child care homes – Private homes, licensed to care for up to twelve children.
  • Family child care homes – Private homes registered to care for up to six children.
  • Unlicensed child care providers – Care provided by relatives either in the provider’s or child’s home; or care provided by an unrelated adult in the child’s own home.

In 2011, Michigan’s child care subsidy program was transferred to the new Office of Great Start in the Michigan Department of Education, where the goal is to make child care a part of the early learning continuum—rather than solely a work support resulting in children spending long days in child care settings of unknown quality while their parents work at low-wage jobs. While the Child Development and Care program is housed in the Michigan Department of Education, eligibility is currently determined by local Department of Human Services workers.

In 2012, Michigan spent $23 million on child care quality improvements, or nearly 15% of total federal Child Care Development funds—above the 4% required by federal law.4 Michigan spends those funds on its child care quality improvement and rating system (Great Start to Quality); child care licensing; local Great Start to Quality Resource Centers; tuition scholarships and supports for early childhood educators; the Great Start CONNECT database that helps parents secure better quality care, and serves as a resource for providers; and local Great Start Collaboratives and Great Start Parent Coalitions.

A Note on Michigan’s Other Major Early Learning Programs

Great Start Readiness Program: While Michigan’s child care system is underfunded, the state has made great strides in early education for at-risk 4-year-olds through a $130 million expansion in the Great Start Readiness Program over a two-year period, bringing total funding to $239 million. Michigan’s rise in state funding for preschool was the largest dollar and service expansion in the country, and helped to draw down another $52 million in federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge funding to focus on quality improvements. Michigan expects to serve a total of 63,000 children in the GSRP during this upcoming school year, up from approximately 32,000 in the 2012-2013 school year—nearly doubling the number of children who benefit.5

Currently, 90% of each GSRP grantee’s enrollment of 4year-olds must live in families with annual income at or below 250% of poverty ($46,380 for family of three). Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, children from families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty ($55,656 for family of three) can be enrolled if Intermediate School Districts can demonstrate that all children at or below 250% of poverty are being served and there is no waiting list. The highest need children must be enrolled first; and homeless children, children in foster care and those in special education inclusive preschool programs are eligible regardless of family income.

GSRP is a half-day program for approximately 50% of the children who participate. Providers can combine funding for two GSRP “slots” to create a school-day program, and more have done so with the recently expanded funding. Michigan has not elected, as many states have, to open its state preschool program to 3-year-olds. This is a critical gap, since research shows that two years of intensive preschool provides the best results, particularly for low-income children.

Despite the large increase in overall funding for preschool for 4-year-olds, there have been only small increases in per-slot funding for the GSRP in recent years. The Legislature rejected the governor’s recommended increase of $100 per slot for the 2014-15 school year, leaving total per slot grants at $3,625. Low payments make it difficult to ensure the uniform level of quality needed across the state, as well as build more high-quality programs in the private, community-based sector. In the upcoming school year, Intermediate Schools Districts may lose preschool slots if they fail to submit evidence that they attempted to contract 30% of their total slots to community-based organizations.

Head Start and Early Head Start: In 2013, Michigan received $266 million in federal Head Start funding.6 Federal funds are provided directly to local Head Start providers, and are not subject to state appropriations. Michigan does not invest significant state funds in Head Start. Supplemental state spending on Early Head Start and Head Start is limited to less than $700,000, and includes federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting program funds used to expand Early Head Start in three Michigan counties.7

In 2013, there 43,921 Michigan children enrolled in Head Start programs, including 37,571 in regular Head Start (86%), 6,259 (14%) in Early Head Start, and 91 in migrant/seasonal Head Start. Of the funded options for regular Head Start, 89% were in center-based programs, 9% in home-based programs, and 2% in combination programs. For younger children and pregnant women (Early Head Start), 75% were in home-based programs.8

Michigan’s Child Care System is Failing Many Low-Income Working Families

High-Quality Child Care is Unaffordable for Many Families. Child care is one of the biggest items in many working families’ budgets. The average annual cost of full-time infant care in a child care center in Michigan is over $10,000, which is nearly half of the state median income for a single mother, and 13% of the median income of a married couple, placing Michigan as the 12th least affordable state in the U.S. for infant care. Full-time centerbased care for a 4-year-old in Michigan is nearly $8,000, with care for school-age children averaging over $4,500.9

Single parents hoping to place their children in high-quality child care centers—where costs are likely higher than the average—would owe more in child care than rent, with average annual rent payments in the state at nearly $9,000. Certainly they would not be able to afford to buy a home, with average mortgage payments of over $16,000 annually.10

Low Eligibility Levels and Provider Payments Have Limited Access and Quality of Care.

Michigan’s child care eligibility levels are among the lowest in the country. Michigan has one of the lowest child care subsidy eligibility levels in the country, limiting low-income parents’ access to the child care assistance they need to work and support their children. The state’s child care income eligibility threshold (39% of state median income) has not been changed since 2003, and without adjustments for inflation has fallen from 155% of poverty to 121%, or gross monthly income of under $1,990.11

Low child care provider payments have forced families to seek out unlicensed care of unknown quality. Michigan’s low subsidy rates have limited access to licensed or higher quality child care. Historically, child care provider rates have varied depending on the type of child care setting (centers, family and group homes, relatives and aides), the age of the child (under or over 2½ years of age), and the region of the state where care was provided.

In 2010, child care provider rates were restructured and are now the same statewide, varying only by the age of the child and the type of child care setting. Michigan continues to reimburse child care providers on an hourly basis, depending on a child’s actual attendance, making it difficult for providers to run their businesses and project income. Most states pay child care providers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

In 2012, Michigan’s reimbursement rates for state subsidized child care were well below the federally recommended level—the 75th percentile of current market rates, which is the level designed to give families access to 75 percent of local providers.12 The state subsidy for a 4-year-old in center care was $433 per month, less than half the $974 monthly subsidy that would represent the 75th percentile of market rate in that year. Center care for a 1-year-old was $650 per month, which is 35% below the 75th percentile of market rate.13

In July of 2014, Michigan increased rates for higher quality providers, based on the state’s new child care quality rating system that ranks licensed child care centers and homes based on a star system, with five stars representing the highest quality programs.

While this rate adjustment is long overdue and much needed, state rates still do not reflect the true and growing cost of care, and under state policy, low-income families are required to pay the difference between what the state will pay for child care and providers’ actual rates. More importantly, there are still relatively few providers in the state eligible for higher payments as a result of quality improvements.

Michigan launched its child care rating system, known as Great Start to Quality, in 2011, but there is still much work to be done to increase the number of child care centers and homes that have high ratings and are thus eligible for higher payment rates. As of Aug. 1, 2014, of the 9,963 programs/providers eligible to participate in Great Start to Quality statewide, 8,164 (82%) had met only basic licensing requirements.

 

Inadequate state child care rates have forced many low-income families to seek out lower cost unlicensed care of unknown or poor quality. In response, state policymakers—using both a carrot and stick approach—have sought to encourage greater parental reliance on licensed care, as well as improve the quality of unlicensed care. Payment rates for unlicensed child care providers were reduced as part of state budget cuts, but also as a reflection of the intention to focus state subsidy dollars on licensed care. Then, beginning in 2009, all unlicensed home providers were required to participate in a seven-hour orientation training before being able to receive a subsidy. When the training requirement was adopted, 65% of subsidized children were in the care of unlicensed providers; by 2012, only 38% were placed in unlicensed care.14

Unfortunately, there are no data showing whether the parents of children no longer in unsubsidized care were able to find higher quality child care in licensed homes or centers, and it is possible that grandparents or other relatives caring for young children simply dropped out of the subsidy system because they were unable to participate in the training, or chose not to because they anticipated only caring for children for a short period of time to help out a family member.

Between 2009 and 2012, overall licensed child care capacity in Michigan fell by nearly 5%, from 366,000 to 349,000. Child care center capacity remained flat, while the capacity of family and group child care homes fell by over 22%.

Michigan Has Been Unable to Adequately Supervise Licensed Care to Ensure Children’s Basic Health and Safety

One area of consistent underfunding has been child care licensing. Michigan has a history of insufficient child care licensing inspectors to monitor child care providers’ compliance with baseline health and safety guidelines. In May 2014, the state employed 68 child care licensing inspectors who were responsible for 10,397 child care facilities, resulting in a 1:153 caseload ratio—more than three times the recommended ration of 1:50.15

As a result, a recent unannounced site visit and audit of 20 licensed family and group child care homes that received CCDF funding in Michigan found that all 20 providers did not comply with one or more state licensing requirements related to health and safety of children, and half did not do required criminal record and protective services checks.16

Subsequent site visits to three child care centers found that the state failed to ensure compliance with health and safety requirements, with all three not completing required criminal record or protective services checks on employees. Included in the audit findings were a blocked fire exit, hazardous substances within the reach of children, a recalled safety crib, unsupervised toddlers, and one caregiver for eleven children in a mixed group including 3-year-olds—all violations of state licensing rules.

One of the primary recommendations of the federal auditors was that Michigan must ensure adequate oversight of child care homes by reducing licensing inspectors’ caseloads, something the state responded was unlikely given current budget constraints.

Investments in Child Care Boost the Economy and Create the Next Generation of Workers

While access to affordable child care has become more limited in Michigan, the state has begun to address the quality of child care, and those efforts were recently bolstered with the new federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant. Current initiatives to improve quality are critical, but face an uphill battle because the child care system is so grossly underfunded that it is difficult to attract and retain skilled providers, and high-quality care is financially out of the reach of so many working families.

To ensure that children have the right start in life, and to give lower wage workers the opportunity to work and support their families, Michigan must increase its investments in child care—particularly for its youngest children. While significant investments are needed throughout the child care system, the following is an initial agenda for the state:

  • Increase child care payment rates with the goal of reaching the 75th percentile of market rate. Michigan’s efforts to improve child care quality and get Michigan working will be inhibited if parents cannot afford safe, reliable and high-quality child care, and it is impossible to develop and retain a qualified child care workforce.
  • Increase funding for child care licensing consultants, with the goal of a 1:50 ratio, to ensure that children’s basic health and safety are protected when in state subsidized child care. Failing to invest in the basic safety and health of children who are in child care so their parents can work to support them is incomprehensible and unacceptable.
  • Provide child care payments on a daily or weekly basis, rather than hourly. To ensure an adequate supply of stable child care, it is important to streamline the system and ensure that providers can project their income and stay in business.
  • Further increase the hours of care so that child care can be reimbursed while low-income parents work or participate in approved education and training. While the increase in the upcoming year from 80 hours of reimbursable child care every two weeks to 90 is welcome, it is still too low. If a cap is continued, it should not fall below 100 hours biweekly because it is a disincentive for lowincome parents trying to juggle child care with full-time jobs or training activities, and doesn’t recognize both a 40-hour work week and the time required to travel to a child care setting and work, particularly for parents who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
  • Expand eligibility for the Great Start Readiness Program to provide a high-quality early learning experience for the state’s low-income 3-year-olds, beginning on a pilot basis. There is evidence that the lowest income children with the most risk factors do best when they have two years of early childhood education that is adapted to their developmental levels. Of the 40 states that have state-funded preschool programs, only 14, including Michigan, do not enroll 3-year-olds.
  • Strengthen Michigan’s tax system to support the work efforts of families earning lower wages and increase the quality of child care. In 2011, Michigan increased taxes on working families as a way to fund reductions in business taxes. Included was a 70% cut in the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit which reduced the tax credit for a single mom raising two children and working full-time at minimum wage ($7.40/hour) from $1,074 to only $322—funds that could be used to purchase higher quality child care or transportation to and from work. The EITC is a proven tool for supporting working families, and has been shown to have longlasting positive effects on children, including success in school.

Michigan should also adopt child care tax credits that could help increase access to care and improve quality. One model is the Louisiana School Readiness Tax Credit, which was adopted in 2007, and provides refundable tax credits to: (1) low-income parents who purchase higher quality care for their children while they work to support their families; (2) child care providers based on their level of quality and the number of state-subsidized children they serve; (3) child care teachers and directors in programs that participate in the state’s child care rating system; and (4) businesses that invest in high quality child care.

Endnotes

1. Green Book Report of Key Program Statistics, Michigan Department of Human Services (June 2014).
2. Child Development and Care, presentation to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education by Lisa Brewer-Walraven, Michigan Department of Education (March 5, 2013).
3. Ibid.
4. Michigan Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application for Initial Funding, Michigan Department of Education Office of Great Start (Oct. 11, 2013).
5. History of GSRP Funding, Michigan Department of Education at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Funding_History_317203_7.pdf?20140818143632
6. Michigan Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application for Initial Funding, op. cit.
7. Ibid.
8. Center for Law and Social Policy DataFinder.
9. Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, 2013 Report, Child Care Aware of America (2013).
10. Ibid.
11. Communication from Lisa Brewer-Walraven, Director, Child Development and Care, Office of Great Start, Michigan Department of Education (March 14, 2013).
12. State Child Care Assistance Policies: Michigan, National Women’s Law Center (October 2012).
13. Karen Schulman and Helen Blank, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2012, National Women’s Law Center.
14. Michigan Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application for Initial Funding, op. cit.
15. Letter from Michael P. Flanagan, State Superintendent, Michigan Department of Education, and Maura D. Corrigan, Director, Michigan Department of Human Services to Sheri L. Fulcher, Regional Inspector General for Audit Services, Office of Inspector General, Office of Audit Services, Region V (May 28, 2014).
16. G. L. Jarmon, Some Michigan Child Care Home Providers Did Not Always Comply With State Health and Safety Licensing Requirements, Office of the Inspector General, Department of Health and Human Services (July 2014).

Census numbers tell of stagnancy and slow recovery

Today is the big day that comes each year: the release of American Community Survey figures on income and poverty.

Ready for some numbers?

Michigan’s household median income in 2013 ($48,273) was a bit higher than in 2012, but is nearly $1,000 lower than in 2009. The income bracket that grew the largest from 2009 to 2013 was the share of Michigan households who make under $10,000 a year. The only other income bracket with a significant share increase was households making more than $200,000 a year. These numbers taken together suggest that the slow economic recovery in Michigan is primarily benefiting those at higher incomes. (more…)

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