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

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

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

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

Michigan was ranked 31st overall in child well-being, up from 33rd in 2015. The state is still behind all other Great Lakes states: Minnesota (1st), Wisconsin (13th), Illinois (21st), Ohio (26th) and Indiana (30th).

The 2016 Data Book focuses on key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years, measuring child well-being at the national level and ranking states in four domains: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. For 2016, Michigan’s rankings were:

Overall: 31st (Up from 33rd in 2015)
Health: 14th (Up from 23rd in 2015)
Education: 40th (Down from 37th in 2015)
Economic Well-Being: 28th (Up from 33rd in 2015)
Family and Community: 29th (Ranked 29th in 2015 also)

“This data tells two different stories about Michigan kids—their health is improving thanks to a continued emphasis on policy changes, but education and poverty numbers continue to get worse without legislative action,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “As we measure ourselves against the rest of the nation, there is clearly much work to be done to offer better opportunities for our kids, and a big part of that is employing two-generation strategies to help improve the education and economic standing of their parents.”

Despite rising employment numbers and a so-called economic recovery in Michigan, 23 percent of children lived in poverty in 2014, which is higher than the national percentage and an increase since 2008. Almost 1 in 3 children, or 711,000 kids, live in families where no member of the household has full-time, year-round employment. This also worsened since 2008. While some are feeling relief post-Great Recession, the recovery has been uneven with low-income residents and people of color still struggling to make ends meet.

“From lead poisoning in Flint and the struggles in Detroit schools to the rampant poverty in our rural areas, Michigan policymakers need to make significant changes to better serve our kids,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We already have legislation introduced in Michigan to improve access to early childhood education and improve third-grade reading, but we’re still doing poorly in those areas while these bills languish. Our kids can’t wait, and policymakers shouldn’t, either.”

While navigating their own family challenges, an increasing number of our young people are also growing up in neighborhoods that lack the resources and support services they need to thrive. Since 2006-2010, the percent of children living in high-poverty areas in Michigan increased to 17 percent, up from 14 percent. Only six states have a higher rate of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods. The percent of children living in poverty (23 percent) and whose parents lack secure employment (32 percent) both worsened over the last year.

Our country’s legacy of racial inequity means that children of color continue to face significant barriers to their success, and the data book numbers illustrate how bad these disparities have gotten. Children of color in Michigan are more likely to live in high-poverty areas, including 18 percent of American Indian, 55 percent of African-American and 30 percent of Latino children. Child poverty is also higher for kids of color (47 percent for African-Americans and 32 percent for Hispanics compared to 16 percent for White kids).

“With rising higher education costs, stagnant wages and a flimsy social safety net, teens are less likely than their parents or grandparents to obtain economic security,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. “For the sake of our economy and our society, we must reverse this trend to ensure that today’s youth—who will be the next generation of workers, parents and community leaders—have a successful transition to adulthood and beyond.”

Looking at Michigan’s poor academic numbers, they, too, are dramatically worse for kids of color. In 2015, for fourth-grade reading, 91 percent of African-American kids and 83 percent of Hispanic kids were not proficient, compared to 68 percent of White students. For eighth-grade math, 95 percent of African-Americans and 82 percent of Hispanic students were not proficient, compared to 66 percent of White students.

In the Data Book, the Casey Foundation offers a number of recommendations for how policymakers can ensure all children are prepared for the future, based on this country’s shared values of opportunity, responsibility and security. For Michigan specifically, the Michigan League for Public Policy makes the following policy recommendations to improve Michigan’s child well-being, and in turn, national stature:

  • Invest in communities to create safe neighborhoods, clean air and water, quality schools and adequate police and fire services;
  • Strengthen policies that support work, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, earned paid sick leave and workforce development opportunities;
  • Promote comprehensive strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect, including providing mental health and substance abuse services for parents;
  • Ensure access to affordable, quality child care; and
  • Adequately fund public schools, targeting resources in high-need areas and providing early interventions and services.

The Casey Foundation’s 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book is the national counterpoint to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book the Michigan League for Public Policy releases each year. The national Data Book looks at national data and compares information and makes rankings for each state. The Michigan Data Book has state-level data and county-by-county data and rankings. The two reports work in concert to annually illustrate where child well-being stands in America, Michigan and in each county.

The 2016 Data Book is available at www.aecf.org. Additional information is available at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/publications, which also contains the most recent national, state and local data on hundreds of indicators of child well-being. The Data Center at http://datacenter.kidscount.org allows users to create rankings, maps and graphs for use in publications and on websites, and to view real-time information on mobile devices.

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The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Fetzer Institute and Kalamazoo Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. For more information, visit www.aecf.org.

Mass incarceration and the kids left behind

Losing a parent to incarceration can be very traumatic for children. Not understanding why a parent is gone and can’t come home, wondering why he or she might be far away, being frustrated because frequent visits might not be possible all while the other parent undergoes tremendous financial and emotional stress.

In Michigan at least 1 in 10 children has been impacted by parental incarceration. This is one of the highest rates in the country—only Indiana (11%) and Kentucky (13%) have higher percentages of children who have had a parent incarcerated. As a result of mass incarceration and the “tough on crime” movement many children and families have been left behind in communities without adequate support and resources.

According to a new KIDS COUNT report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities, more than 5 million children in the United States have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives, including 228,000 in Michigan. With the recent interest to reform corrections policies, the report’s recommendations emphasize that children’s needs must not continue to be overlooked.

Incarceration destabilizes a child’s life in many ways. It causes stress and can have long-term effects on a child’s well-being. The report points to the trauma of being separated from a parent that when combined with a lack of sympathy or supports can increase mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. Losing a parent to incarceration can leave single mothers or grandparents with unexpected financial responsibilities—on top of the emotional strain—which can make it harder for the caretakers left behind to provide emotional support to the affected children.

Casey Incarceration Report_Michigan_Percent

Additionally, when fathers are incarcerated, the average family income drops by 22% leaving families unable to afford necessities, like food, utilities, rent and medical care for their children. The loss of income is only exacerbated by high court-related fines and fees, telephone calls, and costs to travel to visit since oftentimes the parent is incarcerated far away from home. The report cites research that found that if incarceration rates had not increased so significantly between 1980 and 2004, then the U.S. poverty rate would have fallen by 20% rather than remain steady.

The report points to three broad goals with specific recommendations in each:

  • Ensure children are supported while parents are incarcerated and after they return;
  • Connect parents who have returned to the community with pathways to employment; and
  • Strengthen communities, particularly those disproportionately affected by incarceration and reentry, to promote family stability and opportunity.

Michigan has the opportunity to make changes through sentencing reforms to control the prison population, increased funding for prisoner education and training, support for “ban the box,” removing our 17-year-old children from the adult prison system, improved reentry support and by facilitating access for affected families to financial, legal, child care and housing assistance.

Bottom line: as discussions to reform the criminal justice system continue, the needs of children must be prioritized as systems make decisions about sentencing parents in order to minimize the impact that incarceration has on children. All kids should have a fair chance to thrive.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

Do kids really count in Michigan?

Over the past year our state has received a significant amount of attention from the Flint water crisis—exposing an entire city to poisonous lead—and the deplorable and dangerous conditions of the Detroit Public Schools. These two incidents alone beg the question of whether kids really do count in Michigan. State leaders have become extremely focused on the bottom line and reducing spending so much that basic needs like clean air, safe drinking water and quality schools have become issues. (more…)

A two-generation strategy to reduce poverty and increase school success

The message was loud and clear at the State Board of Education meeting last week: family income and school success are inextricably linked, and Michigan’s school reform efforts will not succeed if the state doesn’t address that reality.

League President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs was invited by the State Board and new Superintendent Brian Whiston to address what it would take to make Michigan a top ten state for education. The Board is seeking input from education and business groups, advocacy organizations, teachers and parents—with the goal of developing a much-needed plan for action. (more…)

Schools out! Why some kids aren’t as excited for summer

As we counted down the last days of the school year, most of us were excited planning our summer vacations and camps. At the same time, too many kids were wondering how they were going to eat over the summer – something most of us take for granted. (more…)

Michigan Must Ensure the Safety of Young Children in Child Care

 

Child care is a fact of life for the majority of Michigan parents, yet federal audits and studies have shown that because Michigan does not have enough child care inspectors, parents cannot rest assured that the care they choose is safe and meets even basic state licensing standards. To ensure basic health and safety, all child care centers and homes in the state are required to be licensed or registered, whether or not they accept low-income children receiving a state subsidy.

Nearly 60% of young children in Michigan live in homes where all parents are working, and more than half are in care at least one time each week. Without safe and stable child care, parents cannot work to support their children, and employers face threats to their bottom line from employee absenteeism and turnover.

Michigan’s Failure to Protect Children Exposed in Federal Audits

In unannounced visits, federal auditors found:

  • Half of the child care home providers and all of the centers that they visited had not done all required criminal record and protective services background checks on employees and other caregivers.
  • Centers that were not safe for children because of such violations as a blocked fire exit, hazardous substances within the reach of children, recalled cribs and unsupervised toddlers.

In national studies, Michigan was given a D grade because even though the state’s licensing regulations are adequate, it fails to ensure that providers are actually following the rules. Child care homes received a grade of F because Michigan is one of eight states that does not inspect homes before registration, and state law could allow for inspections only once every 10 years.

The Problem: Too Few Child Care Inspectors and High Caseloads

  • Too few child care inspectors: Federal auditors point to the insufficient number of child care inspectors as the primary weakness in Michigan’s licensing system. Michigan currently has 70 child care licensing inspectors, with caseloads of 153 child care settings for every inspector. By contrast, the national average is 98:1, and the recommended standard is 50:1.
  • Thorough inspections are needed to ensure child safety: Currently, the on-site inspection of a child care center takes between five and 15 hours, depending on the amount of travel time required as well as the size of the center and the existence of any safety violations. Child care home inspections take between three and 10 hours. In addition to on-site inspections, workers must complete incident and other reports, review and approve corrective action plans, conduct investigations on facilities operating without a license or registration, and respond to complaints. Because there are 70 inspectors spread out over 83 counties, travel times can be as high as 60 minutes one way in south central lower Michigan to 120 miles in northern lower Michigan. In the Upper Peninsula, workers may need to drive up to 200 miles one way to complete an inspection.
  • Changes in federal law will increase workload: 
    • With high caseloads, Michigan cannot meet its current responsibilities to ensure safety for young children in care.
    • By Nov. 2016, the state will be required by federal law to step up its oversight to include a pre-licensure inspection for all centers and homes, as well as a yearly unannounced visit.
    • In addition, annual inspections of unlicensed providers receiving a state subsidy will be required. The Office of Great Start has testified that it cannot meet the new federal standards with its current staff.

The Solution

The governor’s 2016 budget includes $5.7 million in federal funds to hire new licensing inspectors and bring caseloads to the current national average of one inspector for every 98 child care settings. Because of declining child care caseloads, Michigan has additional federal Child Care Development Fund dollars to spend on quality improvements next year. Federal funds that are not spent will be returned to the federal government and reallocated to other states. No state dollars will be needed to provide this extra protection for Michigan’s children.

 

Making kids count in the state budget

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Conditions for Michigan’s kids are progressing in some areas of child well-being but in others…. well, let’s just say we’ve got some major work ahead of us, particularly when it comes to economic security. That’s the upshot of the newly released Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Fortunately, the budget plan spelled out by Gov. Rick Snyder last month does a good job in a tight budget year of addressing inequities by making some investments that will drive improvements for Michigan’s kids.

Most welcome is a $49 million initiative, including $24 million for child care quality improvements, to increase the chances of more children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

(more…)

Promoting Early Literacy in Michigan

 

We all can agree that children should be provided the supports they need to become literate by the end of the third grade. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone fall further behind and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Low-income students are at higher risk of low literacy skills than their peers from higher-income families and well-resourced schools.

INVEST: States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions. Without additional funding, schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students are hampered in their efforts. For example, the substantial gains in reading proficiency among Florida students were aided by $165 million to support reading specialists and summer programs.

CURRENT SITUATION IN MICHIGAN: Roughly 40,000 of the state’s third-graders did not demonstrate proficiency in MEAP reading in 2013, and 10,000 of those had scores at the most elementary level (4)—NOT proficient.

 

EARLY INTERVENTION IS PREVENTION: Let’s begin by strengthening existing systems for maternal and infant health, child lead poisoning prevention, early intervention for children with disabilities or developmental delays and improved access to subsidized high quality child care. Expanded access to preschool for 3-year-olds and dental care for Medicaid-eligible children would also enhance readiness.

POVERTY: The clear connection between poverty and academic achievement must be addressed. Raising the state Earned Income Tax Credit and strengthening family supports will improve achievement. Parents in low-wage jobs with minimal benefits need family-friendly policies at work and in government programs.

 

Why kids count

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

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

Children thrive when parents succeed

Roughly half of Michigan’s young children ages 0-8 live in low-income families where meeting basic needs is a daily challenge.

Living in a financially stressed family during childhood has a long-term impact on education and employment. A child who spends the critical early years in poverty is less likely to graduate from high school and remain employed as an adult. To be more effective in assisting these families, public and private programs need to address the needs of both parents and children. (more…)

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