Ask Your Candidates

To address our crumbling roads, lawmakers are offering proposals ranging from increasing the sales tax, creating a wholesale tax on gas, raising vehicle registration fees, or diverting current sales tax revenue to road maintenance. Any type of tax increase, especially to the sales tax, will have a disproportionate effect on individuals earning low wages.

Do you support increased or new revenue to address Michigan’s crumbling road and infrastructure? Would you support increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credit to help offset the burden on people earning low wages?

Since the 1970s, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been considered a significant poverty reduction tool that encourages individuals to work. In 2006, Michigan created its own state-level EITC based on 20% of the federal tax credit. The governor and state lawmakers scaled back the EITC to 6% in 2011.

Would you support restoring the state-level EITC to 20% of the federal tax credit?

3 Michigan is one of only seven states that continue to rely on a flat income tax rather than a graduated income tax. States with graduated income tax structures tax at higher rates as income rises making it a more modern and equitable system.

Would you support reforming Michigan’s income tax structure from a flat income tax rate to a graduated one?

Sales taxes are typically considered to be the most regressive type of tax costing individuals earning low wages a larger proportion of their income compared to wealthier individuals. Expanding the sales tax to apply to services can serve to both increase revenue and make the sales tax less regressive. Even still, the sales tax will remain regressive, which is the reason some states offer sales tax credits to provide relief for individuals who earn the least.

Would you support extending the state’s sale tax to services with a sales tax credit for filers with low wages?

The Michigan Homestead Property Tax Credit (HPTC) is a refundable credit available to eligible Michigan residents who pay high property taxes or rent in relation to their income. In 2011, it was eliminated for many middle-class families, veterans, and seniors whose total household resources were over $50,000 or the taxable value on their homes was over $135,000.

Would you support restoring the HPTC to provide relief to moderate-income taxpayers?

6 Out of 16 states offering families additional heating assistance to qualify for additional food benefits, Michigan was one of four that declined to add dollars to keep the program going when the rules changed. That means an average loss of $76 a month in food benefits for 150,000 families. It will take only $3.1 million to pull down $137 million in extra federal food assistance for these Michigan families.

Do you favor spending $3 million in the ‘heat and eat’ option to draw additional food assistance?

Michigan hasn’t adjusted its child care subsidy eligibility since 2003 even though spending has fallen dramatically. As a result, only working families in poverty or living just above poverty qualify.

Should Michigan expand its child care program back to 150 percent (just under $30,000 for a family of three) of poverty?

8 Two recent federal audits found that Michigan child care centers and homes visited without prior notification were not complying with all state licensing requirements related to the health and safety of children, including required criminal record and protective services checks of caregivers. The auditors concluded that the state has too few child care inspectors (known as child care licensing consultants) to ensure adequate oversight of child care homes and centers, with caseload ratios more than three times the recommended ratio of 1:50.

Would you support the appropriation of state funds to increase the number of child care inspectors and improve the state’s ability to oversee compliance with basic health and safety requirements in state law and policy?

9 Children living in families that must rely temporarily on state income assistance live in increasingly deep poverty as a result of the very low payments provided by the state (a maximum of $492 per month for a family of three through the Family Independence Program). Michigan used to provide a one-time payment to all school-age children from families receiving FIP to ensure that children could at least start the school year with a decent set of clothes. Since 2011, the school clothing allowance has been restricted to only those children living with grandparents or other caretakers who do not receive cash assistance.

Would you support the restoration of a school clothing allowance for all school-age children living in families receiving FIP benefits?

10 Over one-third or 35,000 Michigan third- graders did not demonstrate proficiency in reading in 2013. A House bill would require that third-graders who are not proficient in reading as measured by the state test would be required to repeat the grade at least once and no more than twice. Alternate tests and portfolios may be used to document reading skills but the school superintendent would make the final decision. Critics contend research on retention documents a higher likelihood of drop-out for retained students while supporters of retention decry the negative impact of social promotion.

Would you support the retention of Michigan third-graders who are not reading at grade level?

11 Child poverty in Michigan has escalated by almost 40% over the last 25 years. Almost one of every four children in the state lives in a family with income below the poverty level: $19,000 for a family of three and $24,000 for a family of four. Several policy initiatives to alleviate child poverty have been suggested, such as raising the minimum wage to $10.10—closer to its value in the 1960s and indexing it to inflation, reinstating the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20% of the federal EITC and raising the child care subsidy and eligibility so parents earning low wages can have access to child care.

Would you support any of these initiatives?

12 Dental cavities remain the No.1 chronic disease in children, despite being preventable with proper dental care. In Michigan, 27% of third-graders have untreated disease; in the Detroit area, the percentage increases to 42%. The Healthy Kids Dental program, a partnership between Delta Dental and the state for Medicaid-eligible children, has greatly increased access to dental care for those covered. The program is available in all counties except Kent, Oakland and Wayne.  All Michigan children should have access to this program. The estimated state investment required is about $22 million.

Would you support statewide expansion of Healthy Kids Dental as a priority?

13 Michigan has been a leader in investments in preschool programs for 4-year-olds, but funding for families with infants and toddlers living in poverty or near poverty has declined—despite scientific evidence that the first three years of life are when children’s brains are growing most rapidly, affecting their lifelong development, learning and achievement.

Would you support additional state funds for proven programs for parents of very young children, including home visiting and parenting programs?

14 Michigan currently has nine coal-fired electricity generating units, with health-related costs associated with emissions from these facilities totaling $1.5 billion annually. These health issues range from asthma to cancer, and heart and lung disease, with people of color and those who are economically vulnerable being the most likely to suffer from these health complications.

Would you support transitioning from coal to clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power to reduce pollution and improve the health of Michiganians?

15 Workers who are laid off, or who work in low-paying jobs, can often improve their financial situation by building skills at a community college or university. However, Michigan’s financial aid grants are not available to workers who have been out of high school more than 10 years. There is discussion in the Legislature of reinstating two financial aid grants that were discontinued several years ago that would help older workers go back to school and get a degree (the Adult Part Time Grant and the Educational Opportunity Grant).

Would you support the reinstatement of the Adult Part Time Grant and the Educational Opportunity Grant to help older workers get the skills they need for jobs that will support their families?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small problems get big with misplaced priorities

In kindergarten classrooms in one Michigan school district, work tables are now cleaned only weekly instead of daily due to severe budget cuts that have reduced cleaning staff and supplies. Teachers must buy their own cleaners and wash the tables to maintain sanitary conditions for the youngest students

The dirty tables was one of the anecdotes offered about Michigan’s misguided spending priorities during a news conference held at the Capitol this morning by Priorities Michigan. (more…)

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…)

Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high. (more…)

State Financial Aid Leaves Adult Learners Behind

 

Michigan needs to revamp its financial aid system to ensure that adult learners can build their skills, get a job and become economically secure.

Michigan’s job market is changing. For decades, many individuals became employed in the manufacturing sector immediately after graduating from high school at age 18, built up their skills on the job, and attained a livable wage with which they could support their families and retire with a pension.

Today, rather than teaching needed occupational skills on the job from “square one,” most employers who pay a livable wage expect their new hires to already possess those skills at some level. Sometimes prior experience is sufficient, but for many workers the attainment of required skills must be signified by a recognized credential such as a degree, license or certificate. These credentials are most often attained through completion of a postsecondary program at a community college, technical school or university.

Many workers find themselves needing to acquire new marketable skills with the expectation that doing so will lead to re-employment, higher pay or more job security. Some such workers may have been laid off, others may be trapped in low-wage jobs, and still others may be re-entering the workforce after an extended time as full-time homemakers. Many such individuals do not possess a postsecondary credential and will have a difficult time in the labor market (see Appendix 1).

 

Unfortunately, tuition has increased at community colleges by 31%, though it still compares favorably to other states. Universities increased by 49% since 2005, and Michigan’s public university tuition is the sixth-highest in the nation (Fig. 1). Due to the rising costs, these older workers often need financial aid to help pay for their training. Each year, more than 100,000 (and sometimes more than 150,000) individuals over age 30 in Michigan fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which is also used to determine eligibility for state as well as federal aid. (Fig. 2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem

The decision to get trained in new skills is often made more than 10 years after graduation from high school. While state financial aid helps many students of traditional college age, there are no state financial aid programs to help students attend public community colleges or universities if they have been out of high school for more than 10 years. Two of the three existing grant programs explicitly exclude such individuals from eligibility, and the third is available only to those attending a private, not-for-profit institution:

Tuition Incentive Program: Eligibility rules require applicants to apply prior to high school or GED completion and before the 20th birthday, and the award must be used within 10 years of high school or GED completion—effectively preventing anyone older than age 28-30 from using the award.

Michigan Competitive Scholarship: Workers are ineligible if they are out of high school for more than 10 years, preventing students who graduated “on time” at age 18 from using the award once they pass age 28.

Michigan Tuition Grant: Workers and parents of any age are eligible, but their postsecondary education must be at a private not-for-profit institution. It is not available for use at community colleges, which offer programs specifically designed for students who are working or raising families (Fig. 3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, none of the three current grant programs are available to students enrolled less than half time or who are in short-term occupational programs. Students who are juggling employment, family and school must often go less than half time or enroll in a short-term program due to having to work and care for family members. As discussed in a recent paper by the Working Poor Families Project, while low-income adult students are likely to need employment to support their families and finance their education, working more than a few hours at a job can often result in lower grades and even dropping out. Not having financial aid may discourage adult learners from going to school less than half-time.1

In 2010, the Legislature eliminated a number of grant programs that were available to adult learners: the Adult Part-Time Grant, the Michigan Educational Opportunity Grant, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship and Work-Study. This may have been a factor in the 31% decline in FAFSA applicants age 30 and over for school year 2013-14. (See Appendicies 2 and 3).

It should be pointed out that there are employer-sponsored training programs in some areas of the state that are of low cost or no cost at all to the student. Michigan supports such programs through its Skilled Trades Training Fund and there are other programs available in some areas as well. However, for older working students who are in non-employer-based programs at community colleges and universities, there is no state financial aid available.

Policy Recommendations

Michigan should do the following to make it easier for adult learners to receive financial aid:

1.  Make need-based grants available to older workers by

a) reauthorizing funding for either the Adult Part-Time Grant or the Educational Opportunity Grant, both of which were specifically designed to serve adult learners in a wide variety of circumstances, or

b) modifying the eligibility rules of the Michigan Competitive Scholarship and/or the Tuition Incentive Program to allow older workers to qualify and to allow the money to be used for less than half time enrollment or for short-term occupational programs.

2. Implement a Work-Study program that subsidizes academically relevant work for low-income adult students while paying a livable wage. Studies show that working students are less likely to drop out or suffer academic setbacks if their work is related to their courses of study. Although the traditional Work-Study program was ended in 2010, Michigan could replace it with a carefully targeted program that connects employment to academics. (For more information, see the Working Poor Families Project paper Earn to Learn: How States Can Reimagine and Reinvest in Work-Study to Help Low-Income Adults Pay for College, Enhance Their Academic Studies.)2 

Conclusion

Helping older workers attain new skills leading to in-demand jobs will help grow Michigan’s economy. With the layoffs in manufacturing and other sectors, many workers with families are unemployed, under­employed or earning less than what they used to. This results in less tax revenue for the state and less economic stability for the families. Michigan should provide grants that enable working parents to get skilled jobs. It is good workforce development.

Endnotes

  1. Alstadt, D., Earn to Learn: How States Can Reimagine And Reinvest In Work-Study To Help Low-Income Adults Pay For College, Enhance Their Academic Studies, And Prepare For Post-College Careers, The Working Poor Families Project. Washington, DC: 2014. (http://www.workingpoorfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/WPFP-Spring-2014-Brief.pdf, accessed April 18, 2014)
  2. Ibid.

 

 

 

Education Funding Lags in Michigan

 

State budget balancing act

As Michigan lawmakers head off to Mackinac Island for the annual Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce policy conference, they are scrambling to resolve several big ticket issues that have slowed down the budget process and could reduce the amount of money available for services critical to our state’s economic development.

First is how best to fund much-needed improvements in Michigan roads, bridges and public transit. The governor wants at least $1.3 billion a year for improvements while some think that isn’t enough. There is little controversy that something needs to be done, but much disagreement on how to pay for it. (more…)

Preschool Boosted, Per-Pupil Funding Increased in Education Budgets Signed by Governor

The final Fiscal Year 2015 budgets for School Aid and the Department of Education contain another $65 million increase for preschool programs for at-risk 4-year-olds, a small boost in the statutory minimum K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance and equity payments for districts and public school academies receiving the lowest state payments. Funding was also included to partially restore some educational and child care programs that were cut during the worst of the state’s decade long recession.

Despite small increases in the per-pupil allotment during the last several years, state payments to public schools and academies have failed to keep up with increased costs. Over the last decade, the minimum foundation allowance increased by 7.3%, while the Detroit Consumer Price Index increased by 19.4%.1

There are 48 Michigan school districts and public school academies operating with deficits, and many others warn that they will face financial distress if current funding trends continue. Minimum per-pupil payments peaked in Fiscal Year 2009 before being cut by a total of $470. With the increase in Fiscal Year 2015, minimum per-pupil payments will still fall below 2009 levels—without accounting for inflation.

Per-Pupil Foundation Allowance

Governor:

  • Includes $150 million for an increase in the foundation allowance of between $83 and $111 per pupil. Under the governor’s budget, the minimum per-pupil allowance would be $7,187, and the maximum guaranteed amount would be $8,132. Much of the cost of increasing the per-pupil payment next year is offset by the governor’s recommendation to shift funding for current equity payments to districts with lower foundation allowances ($36 million) to the foundation allowance, along with expected decreases in the number of students and increases in local taxable values.
  • Recommends continuation funding ($46.4 million) for districts based on their performance on four standards. Districts can currently receive up to $100 per pupil, including $30 per pupil for academic growth in math in grades 3-8, $30 per pupil for growth in reading in grades 3-8, and $40 per pupil for growth in all high school tested subjects. After release of the budget, the administration determined that full funding for eligible districts would require an additional $4.7 million for total funding of $51.1 million in Fiscal Year 2015.
  • Recommends continuation funding of $80 million for grants of up to $52 per pupil for districts that meet seven of eight best practices criteria by June 1, 2015.

House:

  • Includes $141 million to increase the per-pupil foundation allowance by between $56 and $112, with the minimum foundation allowance at $7,188 and the maximum guaranteed level (basic allowance) at $8,105. The House assumes that the expected changes in baseline costs projected by the governor—from a decline in the number of students, increases in local taxable values, and the transfer of funds from the current equity payment—would cover over $115 million of the total $141 million increase.
  • Includes new budget language reallocating up to $35 million from any funds that are determined by May 1, 2015 to be unspent due to declining enrollments to districts with at least 1.2% fewer students than the prior year, provided that the districts are not in deficit.
  • Increases funding for school district performance grants by 10% to reflect actual need, from the current level of $46.4 million to $51.1 million.
  • Reduces funding for district best practices grants by $1.3 million (1.6%) to a total of $78.7 million, and changes the best practices criteria. The House retains the requirement that districts act as policy holders for healthcare services benefits, competitively bid at least one noninstructional service, participate in schools of choice, and provide financial, achievement testing and other school data to the public through a dashboard. Deleted are criteria encouraging districts to measure student growth twice annually, provide dual enrollment and online learning opportunities, and offer physical education or health education. The House adds requirements related to school employee compensation and collective bargaining, and implementation of the Michigan Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling program.

Senate:

  • Increases the maximum (basic) per-pupil foundation allowance by $150, and the minimum by $300 per pupil. The increases are partially funded through the elimination of best practices grants to districts ($80 million) and performance grants ($46.4 million), as well as the distribution of $100 million in Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System (MPSERS) grants through the per-pupil allowance. Under the Senate budget, the minimum grant would be $7,376, and the maximum (basic) $8,199.
  • Includes $31 million for a minimum “hold harmless” increase for districts of $75 per pupil, reflecting the fact that the loss of best practices, performance and MPSERS grants will affect districts differently.
  • Agrees with the governor to roll $36 million in funding authorized in the current year budget for equity payments into the base funding for per-pupil payments.
  • Provides $32.4 million for a new Education Reserve Fund to pay for budget supplementals or other items in future budgets. Legislative action would be required to spend from the fund.

Final Budget:

  • Includes $177 million for increases in the K-12 per-pupil foundation allowance. Districts will receive a minimum of $50 per pupil, and those receiving less per pupil now could receive up to $125 per pupil from a new equity payment, for a total possible increase of $175 per pupil. The minimum payment in 2015 will be $7,251, with the basic allowance set at $8,099. The $50 minimum per-pupil increase fell significantly below the recommendations of the governor, as well as the House and Senate-passed bills.
  • Increases funding for school district performance grants by $4.7 million or 10% to a total of $51.1 million to reflect actual need based on student assessments. Criteria for receiving performance funding are not changed.
  • Reduces the amount of money school districts can receive for meeting best practices criteria from $52 to $50 per pupil, lowering overall funding from $80 million to $75 million. The final budget also adopts most of the changes in best practices recommended by the House, with two exceptions: (1) the final budget retains the current standard that districts provide online learning; and (2) a new standard is added to encourage districts to offer one credit of foreign language in grades K-8. To receive funding, districts must meet seven of the nine revised standards.

Funding and Intervention for School Districts in Fiscal Distress

Governor:

  • Proposes $10 million for a new fund for emergency grants to school districts in financial distress. The fund would be for districts that are either facing dissolution, or have accepted children from districts that have dissolved.
  • Revises the process for identifying and managing school districts facing deficits, including a requirement for immediate notification to the Michigan Department of Education, timelines for reporting and planning, guidelines for district or Intermediate School District financial recovery agreements with the State Treasurer, and authority for the Michigan Department of Education to withhold some or all state funding as an incentive to districts to eliminate deficits or develop acceptable deficit elimination plans.

House:

  • Agrees with the governor and appropriates $10 million for districts in fiscal distress.
  • Retains current law regarding the management of districts facing deficits.

Senate:

  • Rejects the governor’s proposed distressed school district emergency fund.
  • Agrees with the governor on changes in the management of districts facing deficits and requirements for enhanced deficit elimination plans.

Final Budget:

  • Appropriates $4 million for a new Distressed Districts Emergency Grant Fund—down from the governor’s and Senate’s recommendation of $10 million. Funds can be used by districts that are voluntarily dissolving, or those that receive students from a dissolved district.
  • Rejects the governor’s proposed changes in the process for identifying and managing school districts facing deficits. Under current law, which will be continued next year, districts or Intermediate School Districts that have deficits cannot receive payments until the Michigan Department of Education approves a deficit elimination plan that erases the deficit within two years.

At Risk Programs

Governor:

  • Recommends continuation funding of $309 million for the At Risk Program, which is available to school districts for a range of instructional and noninstructional services for at-risk students.
  • Proposes significant changes in the allocation and use of At Risk funds, including:

— Establishing two goals for the use of funds: (1) reading proficiency by the end of third grade; and (2) graduation rates, and career and college readiness. Districts that cannot show success toward those goals after three years must reallocate funds and revise their plans.

—  Allowing funds to be used to implement reforms in schools with 40% or more of pupils identified as at-risk—consistent with the local School Improvement Plan.

— Maintaining the current formula for distributing funds, which is based on the number of pupils qualifying for free or reduced meals, but redefining “at risk” students as those who meet any of the following criteria: (1) are enrolled in priority schools; (2) are enrolled in “focus schools” which are in the bottom 30% of achievement; or (3) did not achieve a proficient score on two or more state or locally administered assessments. In the absence of assessment data, the pupil must meet at least two of the following: (1) eligible for free- or reduced-price meals; (2) absent more than 10 school days during the year, or 10% of enrolled days; (3) homeless; (4) migrant; (5) English language learner; (6) immigrant; or (7) did not complete high school in four years and is still enrolled.

House:

  • Agrees with the governor and provides $309 million—continuation funding—for the At Risk Program.
  • Accepts the governor’s changes in the goals of the At Risk Program, including reading proficiency by the end of third grade, and assuring that high school graduates are career and college ready.
  • Accepts the governor’s new definition of an at-risk student.
  • Retains several current potential uses of At Risk funding, including early childhood programs, reading programs and adult education, and retains language prohibiting the use of funds to supplant other program funding.
  • Concurs with the governor in allowing At Risk funds to be used for school-wide reforms in schools where 40% or more of the students are at-risk.

Senate:

  • Agrees with the governor by providing continuation funding for the At Risk Program.
  • Rejects the governor’s proposed changes to the goals and allocation of At Risk dollars.
  • Rejects the governor’s changes in the definition of an at-risk pupil.
  • Rejects the governor’s proposal to allow districts to use the funds for school-wide reforms in high-risk schools.

Final Budget:

  • Provides continuation funding of $309 million for the At Risk Program, with the allocation of funding based on the current formula, which is 11.5% of each district’s foundation allowance times the number of pupils who qualify for free school meals.
  • Adopts the governor’s proposal that At Risk funds be used to ensure that third grade students are proficient in reading by the end of third grade, and that high school graduates are career and college ready.
  • Concurs with the governor to provide districts with greater flexibility by eliminating some specified uses of At Risk dollars, and by allowing districts to use At Risk funds for school-wide reforms consistent with their School Improvement Plans, if more than 40% of the students are at-risk.
  • Expands the definition of “at-risk pupil” to include both the governor’s proposed language and the definition in current law.
  • Adds new language that districts that do not have at least 50% of at-risk third graders reading at grade level, or have failed to show improvements over three years in the percentage of at-risk pupils who are college- and career-ready, must spend a share of half of their At Risk funds on either tutoring and third grade reading, or activities to improve college and career readiness.

Child and Adolescent Health Centers

Governor:

  • Recommends continuation funding of $3.56 million for child and adolescent health centers.

House:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Senate:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Final Budget:

  • Includes continuation funding of $3.56 million for child and adolescent health centers.

Hearing and Vision Screenings

Governor:

  • Recommends continuation funding for hearing and vision screenings at $5.2 million.

House:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Senate:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Final Budget:

  • Includes continuation funding of $5.2 million for hearing and vision screenings.

Early Childhood Education and Care

Governor:

  • Preschool Programs: The governor increases funding for the Great Start Readiness Program by another $65 million, after a $65 million increase in the current year—the largest dollar and service expansion in the United States. The governor’s proposal creates another 16,000 half-day slots for 4-year-olds, and brings total funding to $239.6 million in Fiscal Year 2015. The governor also:

— Increases the per-slot payment by $100, from $3,625 to $3,725.

— Includes budget language that allows Intermediate School Districts to enroll children from families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty if they can determine 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. Homeless children, children in foster care, and those in special education inclusive preschool programs are eligible regardless of family income. Currently, Intermediate School Districts must ensure that 90% of the children in the program are from families earning 250% of poverty or less.

  • Early Childhood Block Grant: The governor provides continuation funding of $10.9 million for block grants to Intermediate School Districts for early childhood programs for children from birth through age 8. Funds are to be used in part to convene local Great Start Collaboratives and Parent Coalitions.
  • Child Care: The governor increases funding for child care subsidies for low-income families by $10.6 million (8%)—from $136.3 million to $146.9 million. New funds are to be used to:

— Increase the maximum allowable reimbursable hours for subsidized child care from 80 to 90 hours in a two-week period, recognizing parents need to travel to work and child care settings ($6.9 million). The increase in the number of reimbursable hours was adopted this fiscal year with the appropriation of $3.5 million in a supplemental budget bill.

— Increase reimbursement rates to higher quality child care providers, based on the state’s Great Start to Quality rating system. Providers with three, four and five star ratings would see progressively higher hourly reimbursements rates ($3.7 million). The tiered reimbursement system was also adopted in the current fiscal year with the appropriation of $1.8 million in a supplemental budget bill.

House:

  • Preschool Programs:

— Agrees with the governor and increases the Great Start Readiness Program by an additional $65 million. However, places $25 million of that increase in a GSRP reserve fund, making funding available to districts if sufficient slots are filled before Jan. 31, 2015 (a similar fund was created in the current year).

— Maintains the current requirement that at least 90% of the children enrolled in a GSRP are from families with incomes of 250% of poverty or less; but includes the new language making homeless children, or those in foster care or inclusive special education preschool settings, eligible regardless of family income.

— Rejects the governor’s recommendation to increase the per-slot grant by $100.

— Earmarks $10 million of total GSRP spending for reimbursements of up to $150 per slot for transportation costs.

— Adds budget language requiring Intermediate School Districts to report on their progress in contracting 30% of their GSRP funds to private agencies, and provides penalties for those that fail to demonstrate efforts to do so.

  • Early Childhood Block Grant:

— Concurs with the governor on funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant.

  • Child Care:

— Agrees with the governor by increasing funding for child care subsidies for low-income families by $10.6 million to a total of $146.9 million.

— Agrees with the governor to increase the maximum allowable reimbursable hours for subsidized child care from 80 to 90 hours in a two-week period.

— Agrees with the governor to increase reimbursement rates to higher quality child care providers, based on the state’s Great Start to Quality rating system.

Senate:

  • Preschool Programs:

— Agrees with the governor and increases the Great Start Readiness Program by an additional $65 million.

— Includes the governor’s budget language allowing Intermediate School Districts to enroll children from families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty if they can determine that all children at or below 250% of poverty are being served, and there is no waiting list. Also includes eligibility for homeless children, or children in foster care or preprimary special education regardless of income.

— Increases the per-slot grant by $50 to $3,675.

— Agrees with the House and earmarks $10 million of the total GSRP spending for reimbursements of up to $150 per-slot for transportation costs.

  • Early Childhood Block Grant:

— Concurs with the governor on funding for the Early Childhood Block Grant.

  • Child Care:

— Concurs with the governor and House on total child care subsidy funding of $146.9 million, including a $10.6 million increase to expand hours of care and create a tiered provider reimbursement payment system.

Final Budget:

  • Preschool Programs: For Fiscal Year 2015, an additional $65 million was approved for the Great Start Readiness Program, bringing total funding to $239.6 million. With these funds, an additional 16,000 half-day slots will be available for at-risk 4-year-olds. Because Michigan law allows districts to combine slots to create full-day programs, an estimated 10,000 new children could be enrolled. In addition, the final budget:

— Does not include the governor’s increase in the per-slot grant by $100 to $3,725.

— Allows $10 million (of the total funding) to be used for transportation costs of up to $150 per half-day slot.

— Establishes a $25 million reserve fund for GSRP, with funds made available for services for at-risk 4-year-olds if the slots can be filled and the Legislature approves the expenditure by Dec. 15, 2014.

— Includes the governor’s changes in eligibility, allowing children from families with incomes of up to 300% of poverty to 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.

— Includes House language requiring the Michigan Department of Education to reduce the number of preschool slots an Intermediate School District receives if it fails to submit evidence that it attempted to contract 30% of its total slots to community-based organizations. Timelines for quality assessments of community organizations through the state’s Great Start to Quality rating system are also established.

— Maintains language requiring Intermediate School Districts to establish a tuition sliding scale for the preschool program for families with incomes above 250% of poverty.

  • Early Childhood Block Grant:

— Includes continuation funding of $10.9 million for the early childhood block grant provided to Intermediate School Districts.

  • Child Care:

— Continues cuts in funding for subsidized child care, but increases funding for quality improvements and hours of care. The final budget includes $6.9 million to increase the maximum allowable reimbursable hours of subsidized child care from 80 hours to 90 hours in a two-week period, as well as $3.7 million to increase reimbursement rates to higher quality child care providers, based on the state’s Great Start to Quality rating system. Both changes were implemented through a supplemental budget bill this year. Michigan once provided child care for up to 100 hours in a two-week period, and many states have no caps if care is needed to work or train for jobs.

— Child care cases and costs are expected to continue to drop, with total funding for the child care subsidy program falling from $136.3 million to $110.3 million—a drop of 19% in just one year.

Bilingual Education

Governor:

  • Provides continuation funding of $1.2 million for bilingual education.
  • Removes current budget language prohibiting reimbursements to school districts that serve children who are not legal residents of the United States.

House:

  • Agrees with the governor to appropriate continuation funding for bilingual education.
  • Retains current budget language prohibiting payments for instruction for children who are not residing in the United States legally.

Senate:

  • Appropriates continuation funding for bilingual education.
  • Agrees with the House subcommittee to retain current budget language prohibiting payments for children who are not residing in the United States legally.

Final Budget:

  • Includes continuation funding of $1.2 million for bilingual education.
  • Includes the governor’s recommendation to remove current budget language prohibiting reimbursements to school districts that serve children who are not legal residents of the United States.

Adult Education

Governor:

  • Provides continuation funding of $22 million for adult education. Michigan has decreased state funding for adult education drastically in the past 20 years, from $185 million in 1996 to $22 million this year.
  • Proposes significant changes in the allocation method for adult education funds, including:

— Funds would be allocated to Intermediate School Districts serving as fiscal agents in each of the 10 “Prosperity Regions” identified by the Michigan Department of Education.

— In Fiscal Year 2015, 67% of the funds would be provided to Intermediate School Districts based on the proportion of total funding formerly received by the adult education providers in that region. The remaining funds (33%) would be divided based on new criteria that relate to the percentage of high school graduates and English language proficiency. By Fiscal Year 2017, all funds would be allocated based on the new formula.

House:

  • Agrees with the governor to provide continuation funding of $22 million for adult education.
  • Agrees with the governor to revise the adult education allocation method and formula.
  • Adds language prohibiting Intermediate School Districts from using the funds for administrative costs associated with serving as the fiscal agent.

Senate:

  • Agrees with the governor to provide continuation funding of $22 million for adult education.
  • Rejects the governor’s new allocation method and formula.

Final Budget:

  • Provides continuation funding of $22 million for adult education, down from $185 million in 1996.
  • Includes a new method for allocating adult education funds based on 10 “Prosperity Regions,” with Intermediate School Districts serving as fiscal agents. Funding through Prosperity Regions would be phased in, with all funds allocated through the new formula by Fiscal Year 2017. The new formula is based on criteria relating to the percentage of high school graduates and English language proficiency.
  • Allows Intermediate School Districts to retain up to 5% for administrative costs, which could reduce money going directly to programs by up to 5% in each Prosperity Region.
  • Requires the Michigan Department of Education to ensure that in Fiscal Year 2015, adult education services will be provided to at least as many persons as are served in the current fiscal year.
  • Provides up to $2,850 for each full-time adult education student, with providers receiving payments based 75% on enrollment and 25% on successful completion (currently 90% enrollment and 10% completion).

Dual Enrollment Incentives

Governor:

  • Includes $1.75 million for new incentives for school districts that support dual enrollment. Districts can receive up to $30 for each pupil enrolling in a course at an eligible postsecondary institution ($10 per credit hour), with an additional $30 provided if the pupil successfully completes the course and is awarded both high school and postsecondary credit.

House:

  • Concurs with the governor.

Senate:

  • Concurs with the governor, and makes concurrent enrollment programs eligible for funding.

Final Budget:

  • Includes $1.75 million recommended by the governor for new incentives for school districts offering dual enrollment.
  • Expands the incentives to concurrent enrollment programs.

Year-Around School Pilot Projects

Governor:

  • Includes $2 million for year-around school pilot projects in school districts that are eligible for the community eligibility option for free and reduced price lunches.

House:

  • Concurs with the governor to provide $2 million for year-around school pilot projects, but provides for a maximum award per district of $750,000.
  • Adds criteria for the selection of pilot districts.

Senate:

  • Concurs with the governor on funding, but limits any individual grant to $250,000.

Final Budget:

 Despite support by the governor, House and Senate in their 2015 budgets, the final budget does not include $2 million for year-around school pilot projects in school districts that are eligible for the community eligibility option for free and reduced price lunches.

Endnote:

  1. Jeffries, E., K-12 School Minimum Foundation Allowance, State Budget Overview, Senate Fiscal Agency (May 27, 2014).

Bad for MI: higher ed less affordable

Those of us moving our college students home for the summer this week probably are not surprised by a new national report showing that Michigan has made deep cuts in funding for colleges and universities, leading to steep increases in tuition.

Compared with other states, I’m afraid Michigan doesn’t look so good. Policymakers in Michigan cut per-student state spending more than 37 other states from 2008 to 2014—a 28% cut in state support. Michigan’s average tuition increase of over $2,000 (a 21% increase) during that time is higher than 34 other states. (more…)

80-mile walk

On this cool, windy spring morning I joined other advocates to show support for the youth who walked the 80 miles from Detroit to the Capitol steps in Lansing to express their concerns with Michigan’s zero tolerance policies and the impact on their lives.

Michael Reynolds, an organizer of the 80- mile event, said zero tolerance policies are "kicking good kids out of school.''

For the uninitiated, “zero tolerance” in this context refers to those education policies that mandate automatic suspension or expulsion for offenses deemed a threat to the safety of other students or school staff. The big problem in Michigan is that the list of such offenses now includes relatively minor infractions such as not having a school ID badge or wearing clothing that doesn’t adhere to the uniform code, according to the students who spoke this morning.

“I hope that legislators understand that youth around Michigan want to modify zero tolerance, and we’re willing to walk 80 miles to show it,” said Michael Reynolds, co-president of Youth First and an organizer of the march.

In 1995, Michigan enacted a series of laws in response to the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994 that required expulsion for at least one year any student who brought a weapon onto school property. Unfortunately Michigan legislators enacted some of the most stringent policies in the country by expanding the list of “expulsion” offenses to include assault whether or not a weapon was involved, verbal “assaults,” vandalism, disobedience and an expansive definition of “weapon” that included toys and plastic knives. (more…)

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