Early reading critical

Michigan is losing ground on a key benchmark in its long-term goal of expanding its educated workforce. The state is among only six that showed no improvement in reading proficiency among fourth-graders over the decade between 2003 and 2013, according to a just released Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Almost seven of every 10 Michigan fourth-graders did not demonstrate reading proficiency in 2013—up 1 percentage point from 2003 while the national average dropped by 4 percentage points, according to the review of national test results across the states. Just over half (53%) of all fourth-graders in the best state, Massachusetts, scored below proficient in reading compared with almost four of five Mississippi fourth-graders. (more…)

War on Poverty: Part 2

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s now-famous State of the Union address that launched the War on Poverty:

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope — some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

While some pundits will undoubtedly seize the anniversary as an opportunity to wrongly declare the War on Poverty a failure, we should instead recommit to LBJ’s vision, as there is plenty of evidence that it worked. And what an incredible return on investment! (more…)

Ten steps to boost Michigan’s economy

new report by the League outlines 10 steps Michigan must take to improve its economy, refuting the myth that tax cuts are a shortcut to economic prosperity. Included in the report are strategies for investing in the services and infrastructure needed to create jobs and fuel economic growth, as well as tax changes that modernize and strengthen the state’s revenue system.

It is an agenda for long-term economic prosperity that includes investments in education from early childhood through higher education, access to the health and mental health services needed for a healthy workforce, basic income security for those who cannot work or find jobs, and support for the community services businesses and consumers rely on. (more…)

KIDS COUNT: First eight years

Legislation gaining attention in Lansing would force third-graders behind in reading to redo a grade. A new KIDS COUNT policy report out today offers some better options.

Michigan policymakers are addressing the importance of investing in early childhood by expanding the state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds, a key recommendation in the report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. But the administration and Legislature fall down on another important recommendation: Support for low-income families. (more…)

Not all blessed with food

Next month many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving with a big meal and lots of good food. Not everyone will be so blessed, though.

On Nov. 1, 1.8 million children, veterans, seniors and others in Michigan will see their food assistance reduced. Over the next year, food assistance will be cut $183 million in our state alone. (more…)

Michigan’s child poverty unacceptably high

Michigan’s child poverty rate now matches those of Florida and West Virginia, according to the latest data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau. All the states with child poverty rates higher than that of Michigan are located in the South or Southwest where overall child well-being lags national averages.

Although Michigan’s child poverty rate didn’t continue its upward climb in 2012, it is stagnating at a relatively high level—affecting roughly one of every four children. More than half a million children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level ($23,300 for a family of four and $18,500 for a single parent with two children). Roughly half of these children live in families in extreme poverty—with annual income below $10,000. (more…)

Michigan funding for schools lower than pre-recession

Contact: Judy Putnam (517) 487-5436

Michigan’s Funding for Schools Much Lower Than Before Recession
Cuts Hurt Economy in Short- and Long-Term

Michigan has made extensive cuts to school funding since the start of the recession. These unnecessary cuts deepened the recession, slowed the recovery, and will make Michigan less prosperous in the future.

Michigan has cut investment in K-12 schools by 9 percent since 2008, a deeper cut than 33 other states, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

“It’s very clear that states that have good schools and educated workforces reap the benefits through stronger economic growth. We are moving in the wrong direction by reducing our investment in our schools and students,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These cuts have weakened our ability to educate our state’s kids. There will be consequences for Michigan’s economy.”  (more…)

Let’s make high-quality education a priority

This week, United Ways, their partners and caring citizens are engaged in a nationwide campaign—United Way Education Action Week —to raise awareness about the need to prioritize investments leading to a high quality education for all children, including the critical milestone of reading proficiency by fourth grade.

A quick scan of the latest Michigan Kids Count data book makes it clear that Michigan has a long way to go to make sure that children have the reading skills they need by the end of third grade to succeed in school, earn a high school diploma, and move on to the postsecondary studies and training needed to prosper in our changing economy. (more…)

Is Michigan a place for economic opportunity?

An eye-opening map in the New York Times this week shows Michigan looking like a few Southern states when it comes to “income mobility’’ — a startling realization for the state that’s often credited with birthing the middle class.

If you are born in the Detroit or Kalamazoo area and your family income falls in the bottom fifth of income, your chances are very slim of moving to the top fifth, a new study concludes.

On the “heat map,” where red shows little mobility and blue shows the most mobility, Michigan and parts of Ohio and Indiana resemble Arkansas and Alabama. (more…)

Military families helped by tax credits

For IMMEDIATE release
Contact: Michigan League for Public Policy Communications Director Judy Putnam at (517) 487-5436

Working family tax credits help Michigan’s military families

LANSING, Mich. – About  40,000 veteran and active-duty military families in Michigan receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit or the low-income component of the Child Tax Credit, according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The report, released in time for the Fourth of July, is a good reminder of the many sacrifices made by men and women in uniform, said state Rep. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq.

“The EITC and CTC tax credits are a proven hand up  — not a handout –  for working families, including those who serve or have served in our military,’’ Knezek said. “As a grateful nation, we are morally obligated to ensure the economic well-being of their families whenever possible.’’ (more…)

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