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

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

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

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…)

Detroit Public Schools plan doesn’t serve kids, hurts teachers

David Hecker

David Hecker

By David Hecker, Michigan League for Public Policy Board Member and President of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan

For the past year, the future of Detroit Public Schools (DPS) has been in doubt. With a massive debt run up under state control, the education of 47,000 children has been hanging in the balance.

Last night, with only Republican votes, the Senate passed the House plan for Detroit Public Schools—which falls far short of what DPS students deserve. However, under this legislation, which now goes to the Governor’s office for his signature, the state is paying the debt and providing some additional capital, DPS employees keep their jobs and their union representation, DPS returns to an elected school board in January, which, while not fully empowered, will have decision making powers on many important issues, and EAA schools will eventually return to the District. Detroit Public Schools, now to be known as the Detroit Community School District, will be open in September. (more…)

More funding needed for low-income students and families in 2017 School Aid, Education budgets

Budget Brief JPG USE THIS ONEpdficonThe League continues to advocate for a high-quality education—from cradle to career—for all Michigan children and youths as the state budget moves quickly through the Legislature. The League’s priorities for 2017 include ongoing early education and intervention services for children exposed to lead in Flint, funding for lead testing in schools around the state, full funding of the At-Risk School Aid program, and an increase in income eligibility caps for child care services from 121% to 150% of poverty.

Both the House and Senate have approved their versions of the 2017 budget for School Aid and the Department of Education (MDE). State economists and budget experts will get together with legislators on May 17th to reevaluate expected state revenues and set final spending targets. Legislators are planning to send final budgets to the governor by the end of May, and joint House/Senate conference committees are expected to meet right after the May 17th revenue estimating conference to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions.

This report highlights the League’s priorities in the 2017 School Aid and MDE budgets approved by the House and Senate, with a focus on decisions that will need to be made before the budget is finalized.

BB Education Pre ConfK-12 Schools/Education

Flint Emergency Funds: In response to Flint’s lead exposure crisis, the governor recommended $10 million in state funds to cover the half-year costs of programs for the children of Flint, including additional school nurses and social workers, early childhood and nutritional services, an expansion of early intervention services for infants and toddlers through Early On, and preschool programs for all 4-year-olds—regardless of household income. Funding for the remainder of the year would come from a Flint Emergency Reserve Fund.

  • The Senate and House approved the governor’s funding recommendation for Flint.

The League supports the governor’s funding recommendations related to the Flint crisis in multiple state departments, including funds in the School Aid and MDE 2017 budgets. Investments in Flint in the 2017 budget are only a part of the solution to the long-term education, health, infrastructure, housing and economic needs in Flint and other Michigan communities. The state must evaluate and reform its tax system to ensure that adequate resources are available to fix the problems in Flint and prevent similar crises in other areas of the state.

School Lead Testing Statewide: The governor recommended $9 million in the 2017 budget for school districts around the state that voluntarily test their water for lead levels.

  • Senate: The Senate reduced funding for voluntary lead testing to $4 million, placing a cap of $1,000 per school building.
  • House: The House shifted the $9 million for school lead testing to the Department of Environmental Quality budget.

The League supports the investment of $9 million for lead testing in schools across the state. While the crisis in Flint must be a top priority, there are hot spots of lead exposure all over the state that must be addressed to avoid further harm to children.

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 2017, the governor recommended increases of between $60 and $120 per pupil, with districts receiving the lowest payments per pupil currently receiving the largest increases in the new budget.

  • Both the Senate and the House adopted the governor’s per-pupil increase for 2017.

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 allowance increased by 6%—less than half the rise in inflation at 14%.

Funding for Students Academically At Risk: The governor recommended that funding for districts with high numbers of students who are at risk academically be continued at the current year level ($379 million). Level funding is also included for adolescent health centers ($5.6 million) and hearing and vision screenings in schools ($5.2 million).

  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor on At-Risk School Aid funding, as well as funding for adolescent health centers and hearing and vision screenings.
  • House: The House agreed with the governor on funding for adolescent health centers and hearing and vision screenings. In addition, the House increased funding for the At-Risk program by $18 million to provide payments to a small number of high-risk districts that are currently not eligible under the state funding formula. To be eligible for the expansion, the affected districts must have more than 50% of their students eligible for the free lunch program due to family income below 130% of poverty, or $26,117 for a family of three. Finally, the House included $3.5 million for grants to at-risk districts (at least 50% eligible for free school meals) for year-round instructional programs.

The League supports full funding of the At-Risk School Aid program. The program provides state funds to schools based on the number of very low-income students enrolled. Children living in poverty often require additional services and resources to keep up with their peers, all of which comes at a higher cost to schools. Funds are available to districts based on a formula, but because the program has been underfunded by a total of $1.9 billion since 1995, schools receive less than they are owed and need. Fully funding the At-Risk program in 2017 would cost slightly over $100 million.

Adult Education: The governor recommends flat funding for adult education programs. In 2016, funding for adult education was increased by $3 million, to just under $25 million. While maintaining funding at current year levels, the governor recommended significant changes in eligibility and fund allocation for adult education programs, including the removal of the current cap on the payment amount per participant ($2,850 per full-time equivalent) and expanding adult education eligibility to individuals younger than 20 years of age.

  • The House agreed with the governor’s recommendation to not increase adult education funding and to remove the cap on the payment amount per participant, but did not support the recommendation to expand eligibility to individuals younger than 20 years of age.
  • The Senate agreed with the governor’s recommendation to not increase adult education funding, but did not support removing the participant payment cap or expanding eligibility.

The League supports an increase in adult education funding of at least $10 million, and opposes an expansion of eligibility until there is sufficient additional funding to cover the increased number of students. Low educational achievement is a drag on Michigan’s economy, and despite the ongoing need for adult education, funding has been slashed over the past 20 years—from $185 million in 1996 to below $22 million in 2015.

Child Care and Early Education

Flint Emergency Funds: The governor included $8 million in the upcoming budget year to cover a half-day of child care for children ages birth to 3 in Flint—regardless of income.

  • Both the Senate and House agreed with the governor on child care funding for Flint.

The League supports additional funding for child care in the city of Flint as an emergency measure, and believes that income eligibility caps for child care should be increased statewide so low-income families can afford to work, and children have the benefit of a high-quality early learning experience (see below).

Child Care Subsidies: The governor made no changes in child care eligibility caps or provider payments in his 2017 budget. Child care subsidies are currently provided to families with incomes of 121% of poverty or less, giving Michigan one of the lowest initial eligibility levels in the country. Payments to child care providers also fall far below the federally suggested level of the 75th percentile of market rate, making it difficult for low-income families to find safe, stable and higher-quality child care while they work to support their children.

  • Senate: The Senate followed the governor’s lead, approving no increases in child care eligibility or payments.
  • House: The House included a budget placeholder to ensure discussion in the joint House/Senate conference committee of an increase in the child care eligibility level from 121% to 125% of poverty.

The League supports an increase in the initial child care income eligibility cap from 121% of poverty to 150%. In addition, the League supports higher payments for child care providers, bringing them closer to current market rates and allowing them to open their doors to more children receiving state subsidies. Restricted eligibility and low provider payments have resulted in fewer families receiving state assistance, even though the cost of child care is often outside their budgets. As a result, despite the persistence of low-wage jobs, the number of families receiving child care assistance has fallen by 75% in the last decade.

Great Start Readiness Preschool Program: The governor recommended level funding ($243.6 million) for the Great Start Readiness program (GSRP) for at-risk 4-year-olds. Eligibility would be retained at 250% of poverty (up to 300% if all children below that level who want to participate are already enrolled). Children who are in foster care, homeless or in special education programs are eligible regardless of family income. The governor recommended budget language prioritizing the enrollment of homeless children or children in foster care.

  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor on GSRP funding and eligibility. In addition, the Senate included funding for a partnership between a school district or Intermediate School District (ISD) and a local early learning collaborative to pilot early childhood education for 3-year-olds, testing the impact on at-risk children of two years of preschool.
  • House: The House agreed with the governor on continuation funding and eligibility.

The League supports ongoing funding for the GSRP as well as efforts to test the impact of expanding state-funded preschool programs to at-risk 3-year-olds.

Early Literacy: The governor proposed to reduce early literacy programs by 10% in 2017 by eliminating: (1) $1 million for the Parent University pilot program; (2) $1 million for the Michigan Education Corps, and (3) $500,000 for a certification test of teacher literacy. Last year, the budget included $25.4 million for early literacy programs. Over two-thirds of those funds are being used for additional instruction time for students in grades kindergarten through 3rd, using proven models for reading instruction and behavioral supports. Also funded were early literacy coaches through ISDs ($3 million), grants for diagnostic tools to monitor early reading skills, and professional development for teachers.

  • Senate: The Senate agreed with the governor to eliminate the certification test of teacher literacy and the Parent University pilot, but retained $1 million for the Michigan Education Corps.
  • House: The House adopted the governor’s recommendation.

The League supports state investments in early literacy, including expanded instruction time using proven models, literacy coaches and professional development for teachers. The League also believes that learning begins long before a child reaches the schoolhouse doors, and strategies to increase reading proficiency should, too—including, for example, state funding for 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.



Crumbling roads, poisoned water and unsafe schools: The effects of a decade of disinvestment


crubling roads chart 1Cities in crisis logo SNIPThe water we drink. The schools we send our kids to. The roads we drive on. These are public services that we depend on. But for too long, our public servants have been devaluing and disinvesting in them. Our infrastructure is the fabric of our society, and as we’re seeing in Flint and Detroit, it’s unraveling after a decade of budget cuts.

The Flint water crisis and the Detroit Public Schools struggles shouldn’t be unexpected, and should serve as foreshadowing of what may come if our state government doesn’t change its course. Michigan’s history of disinvestment in its infrastructure, communities, education and people, if not reversed, will cause Michigan to become the “come apart” state rather than the comeback state.

A Numbers Game: State Spending is Down, Not Up

Our budget seems to be growing. However, when you factor in inflation, our purchasing power has significantly dropped.

  • School Aid Fund (SAF) revenue for the 2017 budget year, adjusted for inflation, will still be about 6% below the level in budget year 2000.
  • General Fund (GF) revenue for the 2017 budget year, adjusted for inflation, is about 29% below the level in budget year 2000. Future budget pressures, such as road funding, will continue to strain this pot of funding.
  • There’s also room for growth; Michigan revenue collections for the 2017 budget year will be about $9.6 billion below the constitutional revenue limit.
  • Looking back over the past decade, in overall appropriations, most budget areas are doing better. However, a significant portion of our budget growth has resulted from an increase in available federal funds. In terms of state-sourced appropriations, many important areas of our budget have been negatively affected, and others have failed to keep up with inflation.

crubling roads chart_photo 2Disinvestment Leads to Deterioration

crubling roads chart 3Communities: Michigan communities receive most of their revenue from property taxes and state aid through revenue sharing. Property tax revenue has decreased as has state aid. Statutory revenue sharing for cities, villages and townships has fallen from over $600 million in budget year 2001 to less than $250 million in the current year budget. Michigan is currently funding statutory revenue sharing at about 70% below its statutorily-set level. This means there is less money available for important public services, such as local water systems and police and fire protection. Communities like Flint have rapidly deteriorating infrastructure and less money every year to fix it, which contributed in part to the city’s water crisis.

Education: To grow, Michigan’s businesses need access to a highly skilled workforce, which means that our residents need to receive a high quality education—from early childhood to postsecondary. However, annual budget decisions are making that more difficult:

  • Between budget years 2001 and 2014, per-student state aid for state colleges, universities and community colleges has dropped about 40% when adjusted for inflation; and
  • While schools have seen increases in state aid for retirement costs, specific grants and, recently, in at-risk dollars, per-pupil spending through the foundation allowance, which is the largest unrestricted source of state aid for schools, has failed to keep up with inflation. At-risk funding, which provides funding for schools for programs and support of students at risk for educational failure, has been historically underfunded. In the current budget year, $134 million more would be necessary to fully fund it. As we look at the current struggles of Detroit Public Schools students and the likely future struggles of Flint students, this funding is more necessary than ever.

People: The impact of budget decisions on people is not often easy to see, but it is the most severe. A diminishing pot of discretionary funding and recent policy changes have adversely affected our ability to provide for our most important asset, our people. A perfect example is cash assistance; in Michigan the percentage of children living in extreme poverty (a family of four making less than $12,125 per year) has grown while the number of children under 18 receiving cash assistance has shrunk. Policymakers would not be scrambling to provide education, health and nutrition services to people exposed to lead in Flint if they had adequately maintained those support systems to begin with.

crubling roads chart 4Infrastructure: Michigan’s roads and bridges have continually deteriorated over the last several years. Even with the recently-enacted roads plan, Michigan roads will continue to crumble as the plan fails to produce a significant investment in roads until budget year 2021 and, even then, fails to provide enough money to fix the problem. The so-called solution passed in 2015 doesn’t solve Michigan’s roads mess, it perpetuates it, while putting an increasing strain on our General Fund.

Recommendation: Invest in Infrastructure to Protect People

State government has to change its approach if policymakers want to protect all Michiganians and prevent the crises in Flint and Detroit schools from happening elsewhere. If Michigan wants to become a place where people want to stay, live and raise families and where businesses want to invest and grow, it must have the resources to invest in the services our residents want and need. However, we cannot do so with the existing budget. Our recent road funding debate showed that, but we still fail to adequately invest in our state, such as repairing deteriorating school buildings and replacing dangerous lead pipes, increasing the support we provide to keep our communities safe and providing vital services for our residents. Michigan must reverse this history of disinvestment and look at increasing the amount of revenue available to prevent another disaster from harming our communities and our residents.

Join us October 26th for Public Policy Forum

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Just like assets or heirlooms, economic disadvantages are often passed down from generation to generation. And we need your help to change that.

A recent report on the state budget by the League shows that children born into poverty immediately start out behind and spend the rest of their lives playing catch-up. They have limited early education opportunities when the brain is at one of its highest stages of development. These kids have trouble ever overcoming that gap, with problems in fourth-grade reading proficiency. Not surprisingly, they are also less likely to finish high school or attend postsecondary school, and without a degree or training, they end up with lower-paying jobs themselves. (more…)

The 2016 State Budget: Gains for some Children and Families but Deep Disparities Persist

The 2016 Michigan budget includes a number of important investments in children and families that should be celebrated, but there is still much work to be done. The state needs to address initiatives to ensure that children are lifted out of poverty and provided the level playing field needed to overcome persistently deep and discouraging disparities based on income, race and place.

The positive budget outcomes include an initiative to improve reading by third grade, increased funding for schools with high numbers of children from low-income families, and an expansion of dental care to children in three of the state’s most populous counties. Unfortunately, the budget falls short in key areas related to economic growth and opportunity, and many investments are not on a scale that will make Michigan a comeback state for all of its residents.

There are measurement tools in place to monitor the impact of budget decisions over time. The governor has established a set of performance measures through the MI Dashboard. The League, in conjunction with the Annie E. Casey and Skillman foundations, annually publishes KIDS COUNT data that can be used as a barometer of the state’s success in addressing the needs of children. Together, these performance measures give Michigan residents the opportunity to compare decisions by state lawmakers with outcomes for families, children, schools and communities.


Outcomes for Children and Families

Child poverty: Despite overall improvements in the state’s economy since the Great Recession, child poverty—a key indicator on the governor’s dashboard—remains high, especially for certain racial and ethnic groups. Nearly 1 of every 4 Michigan children—493,000 children statewide—lives in poverty, with child poverty rates increasing from 19% to 23% between 2007 and 2014.1

Child poverty rates vary dramatically based on race and ethnicity. In 2014, nearly half (47%) of all African-American children and one-third (32%) of Hispanic children lived in poverty (family income below $18,850 for a family of three), compared to 16% of non-Hispanic white children.2 Nearly 1 million (968,000) children lived in families with relatively low incomes of below 200% of poverty, or $37,700 for a family of three. Sadly, 230,000 Michigan children live in extreme poverty with family incomes of 50% of the federal poverty level or less—under $9,425 for a family of three.3

Very young children are even more likely to live in poverty. More than half (54%) of African-American children under the age of 6 and 34% of young Hispanic children live in poverty in 2013, compared to 18% of non-Hispanic white children.

Parents without secure employment: In 2013, 751,000 children, one-third of all Michigan children, lived in families where no parent had fulltime, year-round employment. African-American and Hispanic children are much more likely to have all parents unemployed or underemployed (at 57% and 42%, respectively).4

Inadequate food: In 2012, 370,000 children, or 16% of all Michigan children, lived in households facing the possibility of not having adequate food. And, despite overall economic growth since the recession, the percentage of children receiving free- and reduced-priced school meals has grown from 46% in 2009 to 49% in 2013.5

Lack of affordable housing: Housing costs consume a large proportion of family income for many families, but particularly for families from certain racial and ethnic groups. In 2013, nearly one-third of Michigan children lived in households where housing costs exceeded 30% of monthly pretax income. More than half (54%) of African-American children and 36% of Hispanic children lived in households with high housing costs.

Since 2000, rents have risen while the number of renters who need low-priced housing has increased. Nationwide, only 28 adequate and affordable units are available for every 100 renter households with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income.6 In Michigan’s 10 largest counties, the rates range from 22 units per 100 very low-income families in Macomb County to 31 per 100 in Kalamazoo County. Between 2000 and 2011-13, the number of rental units available per 100 very low-income households fell by over 50% in Wayne County, 45% in Macomb County and 30% in both Oakland and Saginaw counties.

Children living in areas of concentrated poverty: Statewide, in the period of 2009-2013, 393,000 Michigan children lived in areas with poverty rates of 30% or more. Children of color are much more likely to be concentrated in highpoverty neighborhoods, including 55% of African-American children and 30% of Hispanic children, compared to only 7% of non-Hispanic white children.

Budget and Policy Changes Affecting Income Security

Despite high child poverty rates, access to income assistance continues to be restricted. Changes in Family Independence Program (FIP) policies and eligibility over the last several years have resulted in thousands of very poor Michigan children losing basic income assistance. Restrictive policies include changes in lifetime limits for assistance, sanctions for families receiving FIP based on the truancy of a single child, and the strict enforcement of sanctions for failure to fully comply with work and training requirements.

Between 2007 and the current budget year, spending on income assistance declined by 66%, and the number of families receiving income assistance is now at its lowest level since the Kennedy administration. Approximately 7 of every 10 FIP recipients are children, and 60% of those children are under the age of 9. Of the adult grantees, over 90% are women and half are African-American.7

The 2016 budget continues this decline, with FIP funding reduced by over $25 million because fewer families are expected to be eligible. In addition, lifetime limits and sanction policies are continued in 2016, and current state policy regarding school truancy was recently codified into state law.

One positive change in the 2016 budget is the elimination of the Extended FIP. The program gives households that are no longer eligible for income assistance due to increased earnings a nominal $10 per month in assistance for six months. This minimal assistance has, however, counted against the state’s more stringent lifetime limits, hurting children in the long run.

Continued reductions in tax credits for low- or moderate-income working families have forced more children into poverty. In 2011, the Michigan Legislature adopted an unprecedented tax shift that reduced taxes on businesses by over 80% while increasing taxes on individuals by more than 20%. As part of that shift, Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an effective anti-poverty tool that helps hardworking families with incomes below or moderately above the federal poverty line, was cut by 70%.

Late last year, Michigan lawmakers agreed to restore the EITC from its current level of 6% of the federal credit to 20% as part of Proposal 1 that was also intended to increase the sales tax to pay for needed road repairs. With the rejection by voters of Proposal 1, the Michigan House of Representatives has voted to eliminate the state EITC entirely.


Outcomes for Children and Families

Reading by fourth grade: Early reading proficiency is a critical predictor of academic success and is a core indicator on the governor’s dashboard. Roughly 3 of every 4 third-graders without the requisite literacy skills will still have reading difficulties as high school students and are at higher risk of retention, behavioral problems and ultimately school dropout.

The percentage of students who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade, as measured by the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, has been increasing but there are unacceptable disparities based on race and ethnicity. While more than three-quarters of white fourth-graders read proficiently, less than half of African-American students are proficient.8

High school completion: Although fewer young people have been dropping out of high school, great disparities still exist based on race, ethnicity and economic status. Dropout rates range from 5% for Asian-American students in Michigan to 25% for children in migrant families. African-American students are 2 1/2 times more likely to leave school without a diploma, while Hispanic children are twice as likely to drop out.9

Disconnected youths and young adults: Disconnected youths are teenagers ages 16 to 19 who are not in school and not working. In Michigan, African-American teens are 2 1/2 times more likely to not be in school or working, while Hispanic teens are twice as likely to be disconnected.

The teen years are critical for young people—a time when they have the chance to gain the skills needed to move into higher education or training and ultimately succeed in the workforce. For Michigan’s economy, the risks associated with high numbers of disconnected youths are obvious, including a shortage of skilled workers to compete in today’s knowledge-based economy, greater dependence on public assistance, poorer physical and mental health, and potentially the cost of increased crime and incarceration.

A new national study that looked at teens and young adults (ages 16 to 24) who are neither working nor in school found that 1 of 7 are disconnected, with staggering variations in some cities based on race and ethnicity. Their conclusion was that both place and race matter, with continued residential segregation by race disproportionately harming African-American teenagers and young adults, and particularly boys and young men.10 In their study of the most populous U.S. metropolitan areas, Michigan had youth and young adult disconnection rates ranging from 11.3% in the Grand Rapids/Wyoming area to 17.7% in the Detroit/Warren/Dearborn area. In the Detroit metropolitan area, 1 of every 4 young African-American youths was disconnected, compared to 1 of 10 for white youths.11

College access and completion: African-American and Hispanic students in Michigan are less likely to enroll in college than their white peers and more likely to be required to take at least one remedial course. In 2012–13, only 42% of African-American high school graduates in Michigan enrolled in college, and more than half of those were taking at least one remedial course. By contrast, 51% of white students were enrolled in college, with 23% in remedial courses.

Taking remedial courses is a financial burden for students and slows down the time it takes to earn a degree. One study shows that the longer it takes for students to move through college—because they are attending part-time or because of remedial classes—the less likely they are to earn a degree. Referring to remediation as the “Bermuda Triangle” of higher education, the study finds that 35% of students who take remedial courses graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree in six years compared to 56% of those without remediation.12

Of equal concern are disparities in college graduation. Nationwide, African-Americans are catching up in terms of college enrollments but are still less likely to finish with a degree. While Michigan’s overall six-year university graduation rates exceed the national average,13 there are wide graduation gaps based on race and ethnicity in many Michigan colleges, and some are growing.14

The result of inequalities in college graduation rates are differences in educational attainment, earnings and economic opportunity for parents, and greater hardship for families and their children. The overall impact for Michigan’s economy is the loss of potential for a more skilled workforce and greater economic growth.

Budget and Policy Changes Affecting Educational Outcomes

New funds provided to improve reading by the end of third grade. The 2016 budget includes $31.5 million for a new third-grade reading initiative, along with child care enhancements that ensure higher-quality early learning experiences for young children. A key change made by the Legislature to the governor’s original proposal was an increase in funding for additional instructional time for children needing special assistance from $10 million to $17.5 million. In addition, $2.5 million will be available through Intermediate School Districts for home visits to encourage early literacy, and funding for access to highquality child care was increased. Investments in the earliest years can improve reading by third grade, which is a key predictor of school success. Given the wide gap in fourth-grade reading proficiency based on race and ethnicity in Michigan, these early investments are a necessary step in creating equity and opportunity.

Increased funding for adult education. The 2016 budget includes a $3 million increase for adult education. While small in comparison to the cuts the state has made to adult education over the past 20 years (from a high of $185 million in 1996 to $22 million this year), it is a significant recognition of the importance of building the skills of Michigan workers to prepare them for the realities of the current economy. Given the high number of African-American and Hispanic youths who are not in school or working and racial and ethnic disparities in high school graduation rates and college attainment, additional investments in adult education are critical.

Increased funding for public schools of between $70 and $140 per pupil, offset by the loss of special grants for some districts. The 2016 budget provides a range of per-pupil funding increases for districts, using a funding formula that gives those receiving less from the state this year a larger increase in 2016. The Legislature also eliminated grants that are currently available to districts based on their adherence to educational best practices or their ability to meet performance outcomes. The loss of those grants will reduce the per-pupil increase to a minimum of $25 for some districts.

An increase in funding for districts with high numbers of students who are at risk of educational failure. After more than a decade of flat funding, the 2016 budget includes an additional $70 million for at-risk school programs, bringing total funding to $379 million. These funds are provided to school districts for a range of instructional and noninstructional services for at-risk students based on the number of children qualifying for free school meals. Funds are to be used to improve reading proficiency by the end of third grade, and to ensure that high school graduates are career- and college-ready. The 2016 budget requires districts to implement a multitiered system of supports, instruction and intervention at least for kindergarten through third grade, based on a model already adopted in some areas of the state.

Given the relationship between poverty and educational outcomes, as well as disproportionately high poverty rates for children of color, the targeting of state funds to districts with high numbers of low-income children is a good approach to addressing inequities in education. In 2016, a significant percentage of the expected increase in per-pupil funding for many urban districts will be from expanded at-risk program dollars.

A small increase in funding for Michigan universities and community colleges. While universities and community colleges in Michigan will receive small increases in state funding in 2016, postsecondary education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for many residents. At most Michigan public universities, tuition more than doubled in the past 10 years, and in 2013-14, the state had the sixth highest university tuition in the country.15 Tuition has also increased at the state’s more affordable two-year colleges but not as dramatically.16

The governor’s dashboard includes college affordability as a core indicator of Michigan’s progress. Unfortunately, the cost of a postsecondary education, as measured by tuition and fees as a percent of median family income, is becoming more unaffordable. In Michigan, community college tuition rose from 3.5% of median income in 2006-07 to 4.7% in 201314, and university tuition climbed from 12.5% of median income to 18.1%. While the cost of Michigan community colleges is comparable to the national average, university costs, as a percent of median income, substantially exceed the national average.17

The 2016 budget includes $20 million for a 1.5% increase for university operations and $4.3 million for a 1.4% increase for Michigan’s 28 community colleges. University funding comes as performance funding based on undergraduate completions in critical skills areas, research expenditures, six-year graduation rates, total completions, administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants. Universities are also required to limit tuition increases to 2.8% in order to receive performance funding, and one Michigan university has already declined the additional funding in favor of a larger increase in tuition.

No new funds for needs-based scholarships for low-income students interested in a postsecondary education. For the first time in many years, there was no increase in funding for the Tuition Incentive Program or the other major financial aid and grant programs for postsecondary students. The governor had recommended $6 million for Part-Time Independent Student Grants that help older students—the first time the grants would have been funded since 2009. Grants would only be available at community colleges, and priority was to be given to former postsecondary students who left prior to completing a degree or certificate.

Unfortunately, the Legislature did not include funding for the Part-Time Independent Student Grants program in the final 2016 state budget. Given the importance of a postsecondary degree in today’s economy and the lower rates of college graduation for some racial and ethnic groups, investments in financial aid for older students are critical in creating opportunity for all residents, and this decision moves Michigan in the wrong direction.


Outcomes for Children and Families

Health insurance coverage for children and families: Michigan has a history of effectively covering children through the Medicaid and MIChild programs, with the percentage of children uninsured consistently below the national average. The percentage of children uninsured still varies by race and ethnicity, with higher rates for American Indian and Hispanic children.

The Healthy Michigan Plan, which was implemented in 2014, has changed the health insurance landscape. In the first year of the expansion, the number of Michigan residents reporting they were uninsured, struggling to pay medical bills or delaying needed medical care dropped significantly. The percentage of adults reporting they were uninsured was cut in half (from 14% in 2012 to 7% in 2014) and half as many said that cost was the reason for not seeking needed medical care (dropping from 42% in 2012 to 21% in 2014). Access to specialty care remains a problem, with one-third of Medicaid recipients indicating that they had difficulties accessing such care, and shortages of care reported in many rural areas.18

Enrollments in the Healthy Michigan Plan have exceeded expectations. The first-year projection of 320,000 participants was surpassed within four months, and nearly 600,000 Michigan residents are now enrolled. Michigan’s program was enacted with a federal waiver and a second, more complicated waiver must be approved yet this year for the program to continue. If the waiver is denied, these newly insured residents will lose their coverage.19

Mental health and substance abuse services: With the launching of the Healthy Michigan Plan, dramatic reductions were made in state funding for mental health and substance abuse services. The assumption was that the vast majority of individuals who were not eligible for Medicaid but were receiving state-supported mental health and substance abuse services would be eligible for the new Healthy Michigan Plan, which is currently 100% federally funded. The transition has not been smooth, and concerns have been raised that state funding reductions were too large and too fast, resulting in reduced access to needed services.

In 2013, over 248,000 consumers were served by Michigan’s community mental health system. Of those, 52,000 were children and youths under the age of 19.20

Infant mortality: Michigan’s infant mortality rate has consistently hovered above the national average, which is substantially higher than other developed nations, but the state is making progress. Michigan’s infant mortality rate dropped from 7.6 to 6.9 per 1,000 births between 2006 and 2012, with almost 200 fewer infants dying before their first birthday in 2012 as a result. Nonetheless, the gap between the state’s two largest racial groups persists, with current rates of 11.9 per 1,000 for African-American infants compared to 5.6 per 1,000 for white newborns.21

Access to hospital obstetrical services: Over the last several years, a number of Michigan hospitals have closed their obstetrical (OB) units due to low Medicaid reimbursements. There are currently 18 contiguous counties in northern and mid-Michigan with no hospital OB units. To prevent further closures, the Michigan Legislature approved a special hospital OB payment for the first time this budget year.22

The need for access to delivery and emergency OB services for pregnant women and their babies is critical. More than 4 of every 10 births in Michigan was paid for by the state’s Medicaid program in 2013, and the percentage has been rising. In 2012, some Michigan cities had more than half of all births paid by Medicaid including Battle Creek (66%), Bay City (59%), Burton (61%), Dearborn (57%), Flint (86%), Grand Rapids (55%), Inkster (74%), Kalamazoo (64%), Lansing (58%), Lincoln Park (65%), Muskegon (79%), Pontiac (81%), Port Huron (68%), Saginaw (85%) and Taylor (63%).23

Access to dental care: Michigan currently provides preventive dental services to more than 600,000 children in 80 counties through the Healthy Kids Dental program. Access to dental services is essential to prevent tooth decay, the No. 1 chronic disease in children. Children with dental disease are more likely to suffer from infections, miss school, have difficulty concentrating in school because of dental pain, and ultimately suffer poorer health as adults, including an increased risk of heart disease. Untreated dental problems are more significant in children growing up in low-income families and in communities of color. Children living in deep poverty (family incomes less than $10,000 per year) were found to have missed 12 times the number of school days compared with wealthier children due to dental problems.24

Healthy Kids Dental improves access to care through a partnership with Delta Dental of Michigan that includes increased provider reimbursement rates. Although further expansions of the Healthy Kids Dental program have been approved for the 2016 budget year, in the current year Wayne, Kent and Oakland counties are not yet covered. Together, these counties are the homes of large numbers of children of color as well as Medicaid-eligible children. As of October 2014, just over one-quarter (28%) of white children eligible for Medicaid lived in a county without the Healthy Kids Dental plan, compared with almost two-thirds (63%) of Medicaid-eligible African-American children.25

Childhood immunization: Childhood vaccines are the safest and most effective way to protect children from preventable diseases, yet during the 2013-14 school year, Michigan had the 4th highest vaccine waiver rate for kindergartners in the country.26 The governor has made immunization rates part of his performance scorecard, and the most recent data show that Michigan has missed its targets for pediatric and adolescent immunizations. In April 2015, 74% of 19-36-month-old children had complete vaccinations, along with 67% of adolescents.27

New rules adopted by the state in December 2014 tighten procedures for parents seeking immunization waivers, and many public schools are working to reduce elevated vaccine waiver rates. In 2014, 71% of waivers were for medical reasons, with the remainder based on religious and philosophical preferences.28

Budget and Policy Changes Affecting Health Outcomes

Additional funding for Medicaid and the Healthy Michigan Plan. The Legislature included over $190 million ($47 million in state funds) in additional funding for the Medicaid program for the 2016 budget year, based on current projections of the number of persons who will be enrolled. In addition, $4.1 billion was appropriated for the Healthy Michigan Plan (including behavioral health services), which is financed with all federal funds for the final year. Beginning in the 2017 budget year, the state will be responsible for 5% of Healthy Michigan Plan spending, phasing up to 10% by 2020.

Included in the budget for next year is $24.2 million ($8.3 million in state funds) for full-year funding to continue approximately half of the rate increase previously provided to primary care providers to encourage them to serve persons insured by Medicaid. Access to a primary care physician is critical to ensuring continuous and high-quality medical care, as well as a gateway to specialty care.

Michigan’s supply of primary care providers only meets two-thirds (66.3%) of the need for primary care services, and demand is expected to rise based on the state’s aging population and insurance expansion through the Affordable Care Act. Lower compensation for primary care providers who treat Medicaid patients is a significant factor, as a higher proportion of Medicaid patients typically results in lower overall compensation.29

The Healthy Michigan Plan covers individuals between the ages of 19 and 64 who are not currently eligible for Medicaid or Medicare. To be eligible, incomes must be less than 133% of the federal poverty level (up to $15,654 for an individual or $32,253 for a family of four). Enrollment in the Healthy Michigan Plan began in April of 2014. As of July 2015, nearly half of all enrollees are between the ages of 19 and 34.

Nearly 1.8 million Michigan residents are insured by traditional Medicaid, including more than 900,000 children. Children account for 55% of all Medicaid enrollees, but only 24% of total Medicaid costs.

In the current budget year, nearly $14 billion is allocated for medical services, including the Healthy Michigan Plan, representing over three-quarters of all spending in the former Department of Community Health budget. Other major expenditures are for behavioral health ($3.4 billion or 18.7%), and public health/maternal and child health ($618 million or 3.4%).30

Continued funding to prevent the closure of more hospital OB units in rural areas. The Legislature approved $11 million ($3.8 million in state funds) for rural hospitals for the special payments begun this year to help stop the ongoing closure of hospital OB units in rural areas. The governor had recommended that the special payments be eliminated.

Continued partial restoration of funding for mental health services for persons not eligible for Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan. The Legislature approved a $20 million increase in state funds in the current budget year to help cover services for persons not eligible for Medicaid or the Healthy Michigan Plan. The budget for next year continues that small restoration of $20 million.

Funding to continue to follow through with the recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission. The final budget includes $12.7 million in state funds to implement recommendations of the governor’s commission. Of that total, $1.5 million in one-time funding is available in the last quarter of budget year 2016 to establish a transition program for children who have had multiple hospitalizations at Hawthorn Center, the state’s mental health facility for children.

Restoration of funding for autism services. For budget year 2016, the Legislature approved $36.8 million for autism services, restoring a cut made in 2015 because of the slow start-up of the program. Children and young adults through age 21 will be covered in 2016. Currently, children up to age 6 are covered. In addition, funding for a number of Michigan universities to train autism service providers is reduced from $7 million to $2.5 million.

Continued expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program. For the 2016 budget year, the Legislature included $37 million ($12.7 million in state funds) to expand the Healthy Kids Dental program to 290,000 children ages 0 through 12 in Kent, Oakland and Wayne counties. With this expansion, approximately 130,000 children and youths ages 13-20 in these three large urban counties will still be left without care. It is estimated that a modest investment of $8.8 million in state funds would cover the remaining Medicaid-eligible children in Michigan, bringing in nearly $17 million in federal funds.

Rejection of the governor’s proposal to expand dental services for adult Medicaid enrollees. The Legislature rejected the governor’s recommendation to invest $23 million ($7.9 million in state funds) to develop a statewide managed care contract for dental services for adult Medicaid enrollees, an approach that would have increased dental care access for underserved adults. The total annual cost of the program was projected to be $92 million ($31.7 million in state funds).

Local public health services remain underfunded. The 2016 budget restores $1.5 million in funding for local public health departments for essential services which was eliminated by a budget-cutting Executive Order this year. This restoration brings funding for local public health services to the level it was 10 years ago.

Incentives for vaccine and immunization education and promotion were approved. For 2016, the Legislature approved $500,000 in state funds as a match for private donations for vaccine and immunization promotion for infants and toddlers. State funds could be spent only if private donations are received, with a match rate of $1 of state funds for every $4 of private funds.


Outcomes for Children and Families

Suspected and confirmed child abuse and neglect: The number of children who are in families suspected of child abuse and neglect, as well as the number of confirmed victims, has been rising in Michigan. In 2013, nearly 1 of every 10 children in Michigan lived in a family investigated for suspected child abuse or neglect—a total of almost 200,000 children. Between 2006 and 2013, the rate of children in investigated families in the state rose by 41%.31

In 2013, almost 34,000 children ages 0-17 in Michigan were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect, an increase of almost one-third since 2006. The majority of the cases involved neglect, often a byproduct of poverty, which escalated throughout Michigan during that same period. Sadly, national data show that 1 of every 8 children in the U.S. will experience confirmed maltreatment by age 18, with the risk of maltreatment highest in the first few years of life and elevated rates for African-American and American Indian children.32

Studies have documented that poverty and unemployment, problems more prevalent in communities of color, increase the risk of child maltreatment and particularly neglect. While most parents with incomes below the poverty level do not maltreat their children, poverty, especially when compounded by parental depression, untreated substance abuse and social isolation, can increase the risk of child abuse and neglect.33

Children in out-of-home care: Despite increases in suspected and confirmed child abuse and neglect, the rate of out-of-home placements with relatives or foster parents dropped by one-third between 2006 and 2013. Almost 10,000 children were placed outside their home at the end of the 2013 budget year, down from 16,700 in 2006. Infants are three times more likely to be removed compared to young children ages 1-5.

After an extensive review of child welfare data and policies in Michigan, the Michigan Race Equity Coalition confirmed in its 2014 report that children of color in the state are more likely to live in families investigated for abuse/neglect, and to be removed from their homes. In addition, African-American youths in Michigan are twice as likely as their white counterparts to age out of foster care, and less likely to be reunited with their families.34

Access to prevention services: One of the key findings of the Michigan Race Equity Coalition is that to reduce child welfare disparities, Michigan needs to place a greater emphasis on child abuse and neglect prevention and early intervention, as well as expansions of community-based services. While a national lawsuit against the state for its failure to protect children resulted in increased funding for staffing, training and other child welfare improvements, the litigation did not mandate improvements in efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Juvenile justice services: African-American juveniles in Michigan are more likely to enter the juvenile justice system and are overrepresented at most stages, including arrests, detentions and waivers to the adult court. Between 2003 and 2013, over 20,000 Michigan youths were placed on adult probation, detained in jail or imprisoned for crimes committed before they were 18 years old, and the majority of the crimes were nonviolent offenses.35

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provides for the care and supervision of state wards ages 12 to 21 who are referred by the courts due to delinquency. The DHHS currently operates three residential facilities: W.J. Maxey Training School in Whitmore Lake, the Shawono Center in Grayling and the Bay Pines Center in Escanaba.

Budget and Policy Changes Affecting Child Safety

Funding for a performance-based contracting model for public and private child welfare services was continued. In the 2016 budget, the Michigan Legislature continued to provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a performance-based model for funding child welfare services, with an analysis of the unit costs for out-of-home services expected by September 30, 2015. The model is being tested in Kent County, with all child welfare services delivered by private agencies.36

A special payment for parents who adopt a child who is later determined to have special needs was eliminated. For 2016, the Legislature eliminated a supplemental payment to parents whose children had medical needs that existed before an adoption, but were not identified until after the adoption was completed. The payment was cut in the current budget year through an Executive Order, and was not restored for next year. Adoption subsidies are provided to families who are adopting children with special needs, and include both cash and medical assistance. The supplemental payment had been an effort to address the concerns of adoptive parents dealing with health and mental health needs that were more serious than they anticipated during the adoption process.

Prevention and family support services continue to be underfunded. Funding for services to strengthen and reunify families continues to be woefully inadequate, with serious repercussions for the low-income families that are more likely to be identified as needing support. The Legislature provided continuation funding for prevention services for 2016, including $12.4 million for Strong Families/Safe Children, $17 million for Families First, $12.9 million for Child Protection and Permanency and $6.5 million for Family Reunification programs.

The W.J. Maxey Training School will be closed. The Legislature elected to close the W.J. Maxey Training School for a savings of $7.5 million ($2.5 million in state funds) in 2016. The budget includes $1 million for closing costs for the facility, and $1.8 million to transfer the approximately 40 youths currently housed there to new facilities.

Funding for juvenile justice facilities operated by the Department of Health and Human Services dropped from $58 million in 2006 to $19 million in 2014, largely the result of the closure of training schools and community juvenile justice centers, as well as declining numbers of youths.37 Between the 2003 and 2013 budget years, the caseload dropped by two-thirds, with declines attributed to additional community-based diversion programs in Wayne and other counties.38



  1. Kids Count Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org, Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Leopold, J., Getsinger, L., Blumenthal, P., Abazajian, K., and Jordan, R., The Housing Affordability Gap for Extremely Low-Income Renters in 2013, Urban Institute (June 2015).
  7. Michigan Department of Human Services Information Packet (May 2012).
  8. 2013-14 MEAP Snapshot, MI School Data, Center for Education Performance and Information.
  9. 2013-14 Graduation Dropout Snapshot, MI School Data, Center for Educational Performance and Information.
  10. Lewis, K. and S. Burd-Sharp, S., Zeroing in on Place and Race: Youth Disconnection in America’s Cities, Measure of America (June 2015) at www.measureofamerica.org/youth-disconnection-2015.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Time is the Enemy, Complete College America (2011) at www.completecollege.org. Data is based on a survey of 33 participating states (not including Michigan) using the Complete College America/National Governors Association Common Completion Metrics.
  13. Michigan Dashboard at https://midashboard.michigan.gov/en/stat/goals/3x9v-zx8r/h3ui-q65g/ams6-ncy2.
  14. College Results Online at http://www.collegeresults.org.
  15. The College Board, Annual Survey of Colleges (October 2013) at http://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/tuition-and-fees-sector-and-state-over-time.
  16. Ruark, P., Keeping It Affordable in Michigan: Disinvestment in Financial Aid Grants Hurts Students and Their Families, Michigan League for Public Policy (November 2012).
  17. Michigan Dashboard, op. cit.
  18. Smiley, M.L., Riba, M., Ndukwe, E.G., and Udow-Phillips, M., Cover Michigan Survey: Coverage and Health Care Access, Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (March 2015).
  19. Ibid.
  20. FY 2002-FY 2013 Quality Improvement and Encounter Data, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (September 4, 2014).
  21. Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015: Child and Family Well-Being in Michigan, Its Counties and Detroit, Michigan League for Public Policy.
  22. Hudson, J., The House and Senate Appropriations Committees Retain Special Rural Hospital Obstetrical Payment, Michigan League for Public Policy (May 2015).
  23. Data currently not available for Detroit.
  24. Fox, J., The Epidemic of Children’s Dental Diseases: Putting Teeth into the Law, Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, Vol. 11 (March 3, 2013).
  25. Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015, op. cit.
  26. Immunization Status of School Children in Michigan, 2014, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (March 6, 2015).
  27. MiScorecard Performance Summary, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (April 2015).
  28. Immunization Status of School Children in Michigan, op. cit.
  29. Where Are the Primary Care Doctors: A look at Michigan’s Primary Care Physician Shortage, Citizens Research Council (June 2015).
  30. Frey, S., Koorstra, K., Stauff, S. and Jen, K., Community Health Background Briefing, House Fiscal Agency (December 2014).
  31. Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015, op. cit.
  32. Wildeman, C., Emanuel, N., Leventhal, J., Putnam-Hornstein, E., Waldfogel, J., and Lee, H. “The Prevalence of Confirmed Maltreatment Among US Children, 2004-2011,” Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (June 2, 2014).
  33. Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015, op. cit.
  34. Zehnder-Merrell, J., Michigan League for Public Policy, Coalition for Race Equity in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Data Group Chair, Key Data Findings (May 21, 2014).
  35. Weemhoff, M., and Staley, K., Youth Behind Bars, Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (May 2014).
  36. Letter from Susan Kangas, Chief Financial Officer, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on DHHS (April 21, 2015).
  37. Wild, V. Department of Human Services Background Briefing, House Fiscal Agency (December 2014).
  38. Michigan Department of Human Services Information Packet (May 2014).


Earned sick leave: A policy for a strong Michigan future

When I gave birth to my sweet baby girl about seven years ago, I remember the anxiety I immediately felt about the short time I would have with her before heading back to work. Now, “short time” is all relative, because I was given the opportunity to take up to 12 weeks off, so at least I didn’t have to worry about rushing back to work too soon. But many other women are not so lucky.

Imagine this: nearly one in four new moms, who are employed, return to work within two weeks of giving birth, according to a recent report from In These Times. These are sometimes even mothers who experience complications, have C-sections or whose babies are born premature. Why do they go back to work so soon? Because they can’t afford to go without pay and their employers don’t offer sufficient paid leave time—not even for the birth of a child. (more…)

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