Lack of support with child care costs leaves families struggling

Mallory Boyce

Mallory Boyce

Ever since my junior year of high school, I’ve worked at a child care center in the Grand Rapids area, my hometown. This means that for the past four summers, I’ve spent up to 40 hours a week surrounded by 60 to 75 mostly happy school-age kids. My daily tasks include playing all types of tag games, braiding hair, teaching conflict resolution, and insisting that Band-Aids are of no use unless one is actually bleeding. All of that, plus two free snacks a day? Not a bad gig.

In the noise, fun and controlled chaos of the day-to-day work, it’s easy to forget what my job means for my kids and their families. As a recent report by the League discusses, child care is important as a tool for both educating young children and allowing parents to contribute to economic development.

I am most often reminded of this significance during small talk with people I have only just met, like the woman cutting my hair, a coworker at a second job, or anyone else who might ask what I do for a living. If whoever is doing the asking happens to be the parent of young children, more often than not they wonder about the weekly price for a child of whatever age at the center where I work. I’ll give them a quick estimate, which has always been met with a sigh and a brief lament on the high cost of child care, the stress of trying to balance work with family life and general frustration with the system as a whole.

Kids at play snipTheir frustration is legitimate. While child care is essential for most working families, its cost can often be debilitating. Child Care Aware’s 2016 report on the price of child care in each state found that the price of center-based child care for two children in a family with married parents was 22% of Michigan’s median income for that family type. Lower that family’s income to the poverty line and the same care takes up 91% of their income. Infant care eats up nearly 50% of the median income for single parents, with care for two children coming in at 86%.

The League’s Making Ends Meet in Michigan report shows the cost of child care for every county, and it is a significant expense for families in every corner of the state. Such a large portion of a family’s monthly budget going toward child care leaves little left over for other essentials like housing, food and transportation.

Even with the eligibility threshold for receiving subsidized child care being raised from 125% to 130% of the federal poverty level in Michigan’s 2018 budget, Michigan’s threshold is still among the lowest in the nation. As of 2015, the Child Care Development Fund’s Policies Database Book of Tables showed only three other states with eligibility thresholds below 130% of the federal poverty line, with the majority of states’ thresholds ranging from 150% in South Carolina to 315% in North Dakota. With 22% of the state’s children living in poverty, Michigan can’t afford to be trailing the rest of the nation when it comes to providing affordable child care to families with low incomes.

There is much to strive for when it comes to ensuring that Michigan’s working families have access to affordable, quality care for their children. Further increasing the eligibility thresholds for receiving help with child care expenses and otherwise working to ensure that Michigan’s children are well taken care of will help craft both strong families and a strong workforce, bringing us one step closer to a Michigan where all children thrive.

— Mallory Boyce

CREC yourself before you wreck yourself

“CREC yourself before you wreck yourself.” For the last 11 years, I have been trying to slip that joke into my work in the Legislature and now the League. And I had an epiphany yesterday that I might finally be able to do it…as long as I put my own name on it.

I also need to give it a proper explanation, as there’s probably a small sliver of people who know what CREC is AND get 90s Ice Cube lyrics. CREC stands for Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference. Held in January and May of every year, CREC is comprised of the directors of the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies and the state treasurer or budget director.

These fiscal experts analyze and report on economic indicators and state revenue projections. The consensus that is reached during the January conference becomes the revenue basis for the governor’s budget proposal, and the consensus reached during the May conference become the revenue basis for the budget bills passed by the Legislature.

The May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference was earlier this week, and the news on state revenues is not great. But there is a silver lining, at least to me—it makes “wreck yourself” particularly relevant.

Since January, some Michigan legislators have been really hot on cutting the state income tax. This is a bad idea on its face, but especially in this current context. As League CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs said, “Given the fluctuations in state revenues, it was and continues to be foolhardy to consider tax cuts that would further jeopardize state services.”

if-only-i-had-checked-myselfSee! “CREC yourself before you wreck yourself” is not just a (bad) pun—it’s a valid point. The very intent of the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference is for lawmakers to check themselves and incorporate these estimates into their state spending and budgets. And if they don’t take these forecasts seriously and make poor fiscal decisions, they stand to wreck our state budget, our state services and ultimately our state.

The Legislature needs to let talk of an income tax cut die. And when the House and Senate budget committees begin meeting soon, lawmakers should be sensible and strategic with our state dollars, investing in the programs and services that support our workers and families and get the most bang for our state bucks. For example, increasing state funding for child care and heating assistance can leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.

The next few weeks are critical to the state budget and the priorities you and I value. To help you get involved, the League has put together a timeline and advocacy tips on the state budget. We also continue to produce budget briefs on some of the issues that are most important to us and to you: supporting education, including child care, K-12 schools and colleges and universities, protecting healthcare and the Healthy Michigan Plan, and reducing incarceration and providing adequate support for prisoners.

Whether you can work a rap reference in or not, I hope you will join the League in standing up for these budget priorities and urging lawmakers to make smart investments in our state’s future.

Alex Rossman

League advocates for improvements in education from cradle to career

pdficon May 2017
Pat Sorenson, Senior Policy Analyst

Budget Brief JPG USE THIS ONEAs Michigan legislators continue to debate state spending for the upcoming budget year, the Michigan League for Public Policy is advocating for improvements in education for all children in Michigan, including full funding for the services to children at risk of educational failure, expansions in access to high-quality child care, and additional funding for early literacy programs. The League is also calling for increased funding for adult education programs.

BB League advocates for improving education graphic 1The Michigan Senate and House of Representatives have approved separate versions of the 2018 state budgets for School Aid and the Department of Education. Differences between the two will now be worked out in joint House/Senate conference committees, which will convene after a May 17th gathering of economists and budget experts to determine expected revenues for the upcoming year.

While there are a number of budget enhancements in the current House and Senate budget bills that the League supports, both the House and Senate recommended funding levels below the governor’s budget proposal, including reductions in key programs that assist children in high-poverty schools.

House and Senate leaders have said that they plan to cut between $200 million and $500 million in state General Funds from the governor’s overall budget—in part to show that a state income tax cut is affordable. Other potential uses of the funds that have been discussed include debt reduction, more money in the state’s rainy day fund, or investments in state priorities other than those outlined by the governor.

The League opposes tax cuts that further reduce the state’s General Fund or School Aid Fund because they could derail the state’s long-term economic vitality. The evidence is clear that investments in education and infrastructure are directly connected to economic growth. Yet, when adjusted for inflation, ongoing General Fund revenues in the current year are lower than they were 50 years ago—increasing the state’s reliance on uncertain federal funds.

K-12 EDUCATION

Per-Pupil Spending: Two of every $3 in the School Aid budget are used to support per-pupil payments, which are the primary source of funding for school operations. For 2018, the governor recommended an additional $128 million to raise per-pupil spending by between $50 and $100, with districts currently receiving the lowest payments per pupil receiving the largest increase. The goal is to further reduce the gap in state funding between the lowest-funded districts and the highest.

The governor also proposed higher per-pupil payments for high school students, reduced payments to cyber schools, and a cap on funding for instruction programs for nonpublic and home-schooled students (cutting total funding by $55 million).

  • The Senate increased per-pupil payments to between $88 and $176—using $100 million currently provided to districts to offset teacher retirement costs under the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS). The impact on individual districts varies, ranging from Public School Academies that are not part of MPSERS and lose no offset funding to some traditional districts that lose more in MPSERS offset dollars than they gain in a per pupil increase. The Senate Fiscal Agency has calculated the likely impact for all districts in the state.

The Senate rejected the governor’s proposal for higher per-pupil payments for high school students, as well as the cuts in payments to cyber schools. The Senate cut programs for nonpublic/home-schooled pupils by only $2 million.

  • The House provided an across-the-board increase for all districts in the state of $100 per pupil—rejecting the use of the formula that provides higher payments for the districts that currently receive lower per-pupil foundation allowances.

The House rejected the governor’s proposals to increase payments for high school students, as well as cuts for cyber schools and nonpublic/home-schooled student programs.

The League supports increases in school funding that help raise the quality of education and mitigate the impact of inflation and fixed costs on school operating funds. In the last decade, the minimum K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance rose 5.7%—less than half the rise in inflation at 15.1%.1

Declining Student Enrollment: Since Proposal A, the reliance on a per-pupil foundation allowance for school operations has meant that schools with rapidly declining enrollments can face at least short-term difficulties in adjusting to large funding losses. In recognition of the impact on local schools and students, the governor included $7 million for two years of supplementary funding for districts that have experienced large enrollment declines (more than 5% over two years).

  • Both the Senate and the House rejected the governor’s proposal for supplementary funding for schools with declining enrollments.

The League supports funding to ameliorate the impact of declining enrollments on local schools and their students.

Funding for Students Academically at Risk: The At-Risk School Aid program is the state’s best vehicle for addressing the educational challenges children who are exposed to the stresses of poverty bring through the schoolhouse doors. The governor recognized the need to focus on high-poverty schools by recommending an additional $150 million in At-Risk funding for 2018 and by expanding eligibility.

Currently, the program provides state funds to schools based on the number of children receiving free school meals (130% of poverty). Under the governor’s proposal, districts could receive funding for children up to 185% of poverty. In addition, the governor would provide funding to “out-of-formula” or “hold-harmless” districts that are currently not eligible. These are districts that have combined state and local per-pupil foundation allowances that are higher than the basic amount, even though they may have a high number of children living in poverty. The governor projects that with these changes an additional 130,000 children could be served.

  • The Senate increased At-Risk spending by $100 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The Senate altered the allocation formula as follows: 1) $5 million of the new funding would be earmarked for English language learners; and 2) districts that are currently eligible for At-Risk funding would be guaranteed at least as much per pupil as they are receiving in the current school year (applied to the broader base of economically disadvantaged students), with the remaining new funds (estimated to be approximately $41 million) awarded to all districts, including those currently not eligible.
  • The House increased At-Risk funding by $150 million and agreed with the governor on changes in student eligibility. The House also adopted the governor’s proposal to expand eligibility to “hold-harmless” and “out-of-formula” districts but capped the per-pupil At-Risk payment to those districts at 50%. The House added budget language indicating an intent to use a portion of 2019 At-Risk funds to reimburse school districts that provide transportation to pupils enrolled in schools of choice or charters.

The League supports full funding of the At-Risk program, as well as expansion of eligibility to all children who are economically disadvantaged or at risk of educational failure.

Reading by Third Grade: Michigan law now allows for grade retention if children are not reading proficiently by third grade, making the need for early literacy programs even more critical. The governor proposed doubling funding for early literacy coaches at Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) from $3 million to $6 million. The largest component of the state reading initiative—funding for additional instructional time for children who are behind in reading—was retained at $17.5 million by the governor.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor and increased funding for ISD early literacy coaches by $3 million.
  • The House slightly reduced total funding for early literacy and allocated remaining funds ($25.4 million) through grants to districts, with an estimated $245 per first-grade pupil.

The League supports increased investments in early literacy, including programs that address learning in the earliest years of life such as early intervention through the Early On program, expanded home visitation programs, and a state-funded preschool option for 3-year-olds in high-risk schools and communities.

Adult Education: Despite a high level of need, state funding for adult education has dropped 70% since the 1997-2001 budget years. The governor recommended flat funding of $25 million for adult education programs in 2018.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education and provided $2.5 million for Career and Technical Education pilot projects in the state’s five prosperity regions.
  • The House agreed with the governor on flat funding for adult education.

The League supports an increase in funding for adult education of at least $10 million for $35 million total, which would help nearly 8,000 additional students and serve as an important tool for improving educational achievement and adult literacy—part of a two-generational approach to improving the state’s economy.

CHILD CARE AND EARLY EDUCATION

Child Care Subsidies: The number of Michigan parents with low wages who received assistance with their child care costs fell by over 70% between 2003 and 2016—in part because of the state’s stringent income eligibility standards and low child care payments. In addition to forcing parents to either stay out of the workforce or find care that isn’t suitable for their children, the state’s child care policies made Michigan one of only a handful of states that had to turn away federal child care funds because of a lack of state matching dollars. In recognition of the need for high-quality child care, the governor included an increase of $6.8 million in the current budget year (2017), as well as $27.2 million ($8.4 million in state funds) in the 2018 budget to increase rates paid to child care providers.

  • The Senate provided $23.8 million ($7.1 million in state funds) for increased child care provider rates, as well as $5.8 million to increase the income eligibility threshold from 125% to 130% of poverty. Rate increases would be based on the number of stars a provider has in the state’s quality rating system, ranging from a maximum increase of 50 cents per hour for providers with no stars to $1.50 per hour for child care centers with a five-star rating. Unlicensed providers (family, friends and neighbors) who care for infants or toddlers could receive an increase of 25 cents per hour.
  • The House agreed with the governor to include $27.2 million for rate increases for child care providers.

The League supports payment increases for child care providers, as well as a boost in income eligibility levels—both needed to ensure that parents can secure and keep their jobs while children are in safe and supportive settings that encourage optimal learning. In addition, the League supports efforts to bolster the supply of high-quality child care businesses, including the movement away from hourly billing to biweekly or monthly payments, which make it easier for providers to care for children from families with low wages.

Great Start Readiness Preschool Program: The governor recommended level funding for the Great Start Readiness program ($243.6 million) which provides a high-quality preschool education for 4-year-olds from families with low incomes. Currently, the program is for children from families with incomes below 250% of poverty, but districts can expand it to children with incomes of up to 300% of poverty if they can demonstrate that all children with lower incomes who want to participate have had the opportunity to do so. For 2018, the governor restricted eligibility to children in families with incomes of 250% of poverty or less, and required that 100% of children meet that income eligibility level, rather than 90% as currently required. In addition, the governor changed the allocation formula to ISDs.

  • The Senate agreed with the governor on spending levels and on the new allocation formula, but retained the option of serving children in families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty.
  • The House adopted the governor’s recommendations for the Great Start Readiness Program funding and allocations.

ENDNOTE

  1. K-12 Schools Minimum Foundation Allowance History, Senate Fiscal Agency (October 1, 2016).

 

Turning understanding into action

My first introduction to the Michigan League for Public Policy came this past summer in the form of a State Budget 101 Training. It had been a long week, and I wasn’t sure if budget talk was going to keep my attention. Gratefully, I was very wrong.

The League’s staff presented data and stories in a way that helped me to understand and criticize the foundational budget policies that throw people into poverty across Michigan. The information was so enlightening and exciting that I kept talking about it, Googling it and crafting new ways of sharing it for weeks afterward. (more…)

The League’s top blogs of 2016

The League’s staff blog is one of my favorite communications tools. It is always current, as we aim to post at least one new blog a week, sometimes more. It is personal, as many of us share about our personal lives and experiences in connection with what we do at the League. The blog provides a variety of perspectives, as they are written by everyone from our CEO and board members to our interns and even former staff. And our blog strives to make public policy issues interesting and accessible.

A blog is only as effective as its reach, and what I love the most about our staff blog is that people actually read it and share it with others. So, as 2016 comes to a close, I wanted to take a look back at our most popular blogs of the year. Each of these blogs was shared over 100 times, showing that these issues struck a chord with our supporters. If you’ve already read these, I encourage you to take a look at them again. And if these are new to you, I hope you’ll give them a read.

  1. When are we going to really value education?: Michigan Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren talks about Michigan’s disinvestment in education and how the state spends dramatically more on corrections than education.
  2. Why we fight: I wrote about the aftermath of the 2016 election and why policy advocates need to dust ourselves off and keep fighting the good fight.
  3. Angry about Flint? Be part of the solution: Policy analyst Peter Ruark writes about his volunteer work in Flint and the need for people to get involved on the ground and in the Capitol to help residents.
  4. Changing minds by touching hearts: League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill blogs about the lives and hearts our work touches.
  5. Top ten voting tips: League CEO Gilda Jacobs writes about the importance of voting and dispels some prevalent myths around the process.
  6. Quit spreading misinformation: Michigan is NOT a high tax state: Legislative Director Rachel Richards seeks to set the record straight on Michigan’s tax climate.
  7. Bundle of joy: Gilda Jacobs discusses the birth of her new granddaughter and why we need a better Michigan and a better world for all kids.
  8. Michigan, 20 years after “welfare reform”: Peter Ruark blogs about the impact still being felt in Michigan today from the federal welfare reform of the 1990s.
  9. 14,000 unemployed workers will soon lose food assistance: Peter Ruark writes about a policy change that will take away vital food assistance for struggling workers.

—Alex Rossman

It’s time to end racial inequity in education

My father, a man of Norwegian descent who grew up on a small farm in southern Minnesota, was one of many beneficiaries of the GI bill. As part of the first generation in his family to attend college, with public financial support he excelled and launched a career as a professor of economics. The opportunity given to my father changed the trajectory of my parents’ lives and mine.

While ostensibly race-neutral, the G.I. Bill did not have the same effect on educational attainment for Black and White veterans after the war, in part because of admission policies that limited access to colleges and universities. As a result, a public policy that appeared to increase equality and opportunity actually did little to overcome consistent institutional barriers and inequities in access to education and housing for veterans of color. (more…)

League forum brings hundreds of residents together to discuss solutions to poverty and racial inequity in Michigan

For Immediate Release: October 10, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

League issues new report on race and education in conjunction with event

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy held its annual policy forum today, Race, Poverty and Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan, bringing together more than four hundred residents and state and national experts from advocacy, business, government and media.

The current national climate on race, the Flint water crisis, the ongoing struggles of Detroit Public Schools and other recent policies that have made it painfully clear that policymakers, advocates and residents needed to have an honest discussion about race equity and statewide policy change. The forum included a keynote address by Rinku Sen, president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation, followed by five breakout sessions to discuss challenges and possible solutions to racial inequity and poverty in Michigan. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician whose discovery of elevated lead levels in Flint’s children made policymakers address the Flint water crisis, was honored with the League’s Champion for Kids Award at the forum today. (more…)

Passage of third-grade reading bill good start, broader efforts to address poverty still needed

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Michigan Legislature’s passage of third-grade reading legislation today. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. (more…)

Michigan improves in overall child well-being, drops to 10th worst state in nation for education

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

National 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Michigan 31st in country for kids; state ranks high for children’s health, poor for education performance and poverty

LANSING—Michigan dropped to 40th in the nation for children’s education, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. In Michigan, more than half of young children are not in preschool, 71 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. (more…)

How do Michigan kids fare compared with kids in other states? Data shows mixed results.

Everyone wants the best for their kids. We want to live in a state that invests in our youngest residents and provides a future for them. I think back to when I was in graduate school in Austin, Texas, and was offered a job to stay there. This was at the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 and I decided that it was more important to me to come back home and try to make things better here. I wanted to help make Michigan a place where people would want to live, more college graduates would stay or return home, and people would want to start families and raise their children. I am a parent now of an 8-year-old, sassy, very smart, talented and beautiful girl, and I often find myself saying, and not in a good way, “This isn’t the Michigan I grew up in.” (more…)

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