MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

High-quality, affordable child care elusive

Added October 28th, 2014 by Pat Sorenson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Although Michigan has started to address its long-neglected child care system, the state has a long way to go to make high-quality child care affordable and easily accessible, especially for low- and moderate-income working parents.

That is the conclusion of a new report on child care assistance policies.

Preschoolers at play Michigan received praise in the report for its new, tiered reimbursement rate system for higher-quality child care providers, implemented in July 2014.

Michigan now rates licensed child care providers on a scale of 0 to 5 stars, with 5 being the highest quality early learning experience for children.

Under the new reimbursement system, providers can receive an additional 25 cents per hour for a three-star program, 50 cents per hour for a four-star program, and 75 cents for a five-star program.

Higher rates for higher quality makes sense, and is an important step forward. The goal is to give parents reliable and affordable child care, as well as peace of mind while they work to support their families. For children, the goal is to provide daily learning experiences that take advantage of that brief window of time when their brains are developing rapidly, affecting their chances of achieving in school and beyond.

The reality is that Michigan’s child care system still falls far short, as outlined in a recent League report:

  • As of early October, 80% of Michigan’s licensed child care providers had zero stars in the child care rating system, meaning that they only met baseline licensing requirements, and were not eligible for higher rates under the new reimbursement system.
  • Least likely to be eligible for higher rates are the more affordable family child care homes, with less than 4% having 3 or more stars.
  • Michigan continues to have some of the lowest child care subsidy eligibility levels in the country. While over two-thirds of the states increased their income eligibility levels between 2013 and 2014, Michigan did not.  In fact, eligibility levels fell from 178% of poverty in 2001 to 121% of poverty in 2014—a reduction of 57%.

With the second large expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program this year, Michigan continues to make strides for 4-year-olds.

Still left behind are the families who need to work but cannot find safe, affordable care for their infants and toddlers. Also left adrift are the state’s 3-year-olds, who are not eligible for the state-subsidized preschool that could help them get ready for school and develop the literacy skills needed for that important benchmark of reading by third grade.

It is time to turn our attention to the youngest learners in the state and their hard-working parents.

– Pat Sorenson

Americans want Congress to invest in kids

Added October 22nd, 2014 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

A national public opinion poll just released by the Children’s Leadership Council found strong support for increased funding for effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth across the age spectrum, from birth to adulthood.

“Elected officials have an obligation to support, protect and defend programs that invest in and assist children, youth and their families. Americans are asking for no less,” says Randi Carmen Schmidt, executive director of the Children’s Leadership Council, which commissioned the poll.

Almost eight of every 10 Americans polled favored investing more in programs that support children’s education, healthcare, nutrition and well-being. 

Majorities of all political persuasions want to make children’s programs and services a higher budget priority.

In Michigan, substantial numbers of children rely on federally funded programs for their basic needs: Roughly half of all K-12 students are eligible for free and reduced priced school lunch and a quarter of a million young children live in families that qualify for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. While unemployment is down for Michigan workers so are wages and opportunities for full-time employment.

The Children’s Leadership Council — a coalition of more than 50 of the nation’s leading child and youth advocacy organizations — commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct the telephone poll of a nationally representative sample of over 800 Americans age 18 and older. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5%.

Among the results of the nationwide poll:

  • By a strong margin, Americans say that investing more in children’s health, education and well-being should be a higher priority today than reducing taxes.
  • As we near national mid-term Congressional elections, a majority of registered voters polled would be more likely to support a candidate who favored increasing funding for programs and services to address children’s needs — only 10% would be less likely to favor such a candidate.

Almost two of every three respondents agreed that “the best way to provide a secure retirement [for seniors] is to ensure that we have productive workers contributing to the economy in the future.”

Children and young people have shouldered much of the burden of the sluggish economic recovery: Nearly one in four children in Michigan lives in families with income below poverty level. New Census Bureau data show the vital role federal anti-poverty programs like SNAP, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit play in lifting children out of poverty.

Cutting such services and supports is not only unjust, it is short-sighted. The well-being of our youth today affects the health and economic vitality of our state and nation now and in the decades to come.

– Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Michigan fails to invest in child care

Added September 22nd, 2014 by Pat Sorenson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Child care is a necessity for many Michigan families, but is becoming increasingly unaffordable for lower-income parents. In addition, insufficient state inspectors to monitor providers’ compliance with child care licensing rules means that parents cannot always count on finding safe and reliable care — even if they have the resources to purchase it.

A new report by the League concludes that current efforts to improve access to high quality child care — partly through a new federal grant — will be insufficient to move the dial significantly without additional state funding.


Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

Added August 26th, 2014 by Jan Hudson | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jan Hudson

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

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

Poverty and third grade reading proficiency: A problem for Michigan’s children

Added August 5th, 2014 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

The new 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book brings attention to national and state-level data on the well-being of children and the results are sobering for Michigan, with more children living in poverty and trailing behind in education.

Despite an uptick in Michigan’s economy, a quarter of Michigan’s children live in poverty with much higher rates for children of color, and the state ranks 38th in the education domain in this year’s report, with 69 percent of fourth graders below reading proficiency.

The world economy is demanding an educated workforce and reading proficiency is at the center. Without investing in these children long before they reach the end of third grade, we are choosing to jeopardize the long-term growth and economic development of our state. (more…)


Added July 22nd, 2014 by Judy Putnam | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Judy Putnam

Life for Michigan kids improved in important ways since 1990 with fewer children dying and fewer births to teens, the 25th edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today, finds.

These are heartening trends because they prove that good public policy does make a positive difference. For example, the state’s graduated driver’s license helped reduced the number of teens dying on the highway and sustained public health and education campaigns resulted in fewer teen pregnancies. (more…)

Maternal and infant risks in Michigan’s legacy cities

Added June 17th, 2014 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Print This Entry Print This Entry | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Roughly one of every four children in the state lives in one of Michigan’s legacy cities located across the southern half of the state’s Lower Peninsula. These legacy cities, once economic and social powerhouses, are now, in many cases, struggling with population loss and high unemployment.

Perhaps, not so surprising, risks to maternal and infant well-being are generally worse within these cities than the out-county areas in the counties where they are located.

The latest analysis of Right Start in Michigan, an annual report from Kids Count in Michigan, examines eight indicators to assess maternal and infant risks across the 15 so-called legacy cities. Only Ann Arbor, which has actually thrived in the new post-industrial economy, shows lower risk on almost all indicators than the out-county. (more…)

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
Sign up for the newsletter and alerts

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. (more…)

‘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…)

Next Page »