MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Race for Results: action needed

Added April 2nd, 2014 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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In my long career as a policymaker and leader of a nonprofit, few reports have hit me as hard as the KIDS COUNT report out Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children for the first time shines a light on child well-being based on more than age and geography. This report uses an index that looks at the conditions and outcomes — the opportunities for children — based on race/ethnicity.

It’s very clear that African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian children have far fewer opportunities in our country and more barriers to become successful adults than white or Asian children. In Michigan as well, there is a strong race-based pattern, and it’s not pretty.

Opportunities for both Michigan’s white children and African American children fall behind their national peers. Yet the biggest gap by far is the index for the state’s African American children. Michigan’s index is among the lowest in the country.

Of course, as the Kids Count organization and as caring individuals, we are concerned with each and every child. But these findings should also chill us to the bone as we look to our future. Why? Because children of color will be the majority in the United States by 2018. One of every three children in Michigan is a child of color. This is our future workforce, and we are not preparing all of them adequately to be competitive in the national and world economies. Our future prosperity depends on turning this around.

So, what should be done? This is a huge issue, one that is hard to wrap your arms completely around. Yet, we have too much at stake to become overwhelmed.

Delving into the data, Michigan’s African American children are far less likely to live in a low-poverty neighborhood than African American children nationally, and test scores in reading and math are lower than their national peers. Those are good places to start addressing the problems.

The League supports early childhood intervention, including the move by Gov. Snyder and business leaders to expand preschool for 4-year-olds. This is a positive action, yet the state has also cut programs in recent years that address the very, very critical period in a child’s life from zero to age 3. Let’s expand our preschool strategy to offer interventions for children and help for parents in that crucial time after birth.

The League also supports increasing the minimum wage, restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20%, and raising child care subsidies for low-income working parents. These are strategies that will help families and grow stronger neighborhoods that nourish children.

On May 5, at a convening of the Prosperity Coalition, these findings will be discussed and solutions explored. We hope you can join us.

Let’s be clear. The kids aren’t failing. Rather, we are failing these children and dimming our hope of a bright future. Let this be a call to action.

– By Gilda Z. Jacobs

‘Opportunity is who we are’

Added January 29th, 2014 by Judy Putnam | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Judy Putnam

President Obama hit on several important themes Tuesday evening in his State of the Union address but one stood out for its clarity: opportunity.

The president noted that only in America could the daughter of a factory worker, Mary Barra, become CEO of General Motors; or the son of a barkeeper, John Boehner, become House Speaker; or could he, the son of single mom, lead the most powerful country on the planet.

He said he and his wife, Michelle, “want every child to have the same chance our country gave us.’’ (more…)

Early reading critical

Added January 28th, 2014 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

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

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

War on Poverty: Part 2

Added January 8th, 2014 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s now-famous State of the Union address that launched the War on Poverty:

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

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

Walking the walk with infant mortality

Added December 2nd, 2013 by Judy Putnam | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Judy Putnam

Factors that may drive Michigan’s tragically high infant mortality rate include stress, unemployment, poverty and neighborhood safety in addition to what might be thought of as the more traditional reasons, such as lack of healthcare or poor safe sleep practices, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The report takes a broad look at why Michigan’s rate is so high and in particular why an African American infant in Michigan is 2.6 more times likely to die before reaching the child’s first birthday than a white infant. (more…)

KIDS COUNT: First eight years

Added November 4th, 2013 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

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

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

Michigan’s child poverty unacceptably high

Added September 19th, 2013 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

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

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

Let’s make high-quality education a priority

Added August 22nd, 2013 by Pat Sorenson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

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

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

‘I have a daughter’

Added August 7th, 2013 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

“I have a daughter,” were the dying words of Oscar Grant, the 22-year old African American father, who was shot while lying face down in handcuffs on the Fruitvale station platform of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in Oakland. The transit police officer maintained that he had pulled his pistol by mistake while reaching for his taser. Officers were responding to reports of a fight on the train before it pulled into the station.

The incident is portrayed in a recently released acclaimed film, Fruitvale Station. The movie, which begins with video of the actual event from bystanders early on New Year’s Day 2009, depicts the last 24 hours in the life of Oscar Grant. This first film of the director Ryan Coogler, who is also from Oakland and African American, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. (more…)

For kids, deep disparities persist

Added July 9th, 2013 by Pat Sorenson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget has been signed by the governor. Despite some exciting wins for low-income children and families, deep and persistent disparities based on race, ethnicity and income remain largely untouched, a new report concludes. (more…)

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