News Releases

Statement: Bipartisan bills to create uniform school expulsion and suspension practices will benefit all kids

For Immediate Release: December 13, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on the Senate’s unanimous passage today of House Bills 5618-5621 and 5693-5695, legislation to improve school expulsion and suspension policies in Michigan. This includes instructing schools to expel or suspend students sensibly, evaluating incidents and students on an individual basis, reducing zero tolerance discipline policies and promoting the use of “restorative justice” practices which seek to resolve issues at school. Earlier this fall, the League issued a report on racial disparities in education, noting that students of color are inordinately affected by school expulsions and suspensions. The statement may be attributed to League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“We all want to keep our kids safe when they’re in school, and that hasn’t changed. These bills will still protect students and teachers. They simply provide more common sense, flexibility and consideration of the students in weighing suspensions and expulsions. Too many students were receiving drastic and even permanently detrimental punishments for minor incidences or oversights, and this change provides educators with the discretion they need to act in the best interest of all students. This also gets the state one step closer to addressing the dramatic racial disparities in relation to school expulsions and suspensions, an area we will continue to work on in the next session.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Statement: Patience and bipartisanship pay off to help feed 338,000 families

For Immediate Release: December 7, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on today’s passage of Senate Bill 800, a supplemental budget bill that will provide food assistance for 338,000 families in Michigan. The year-end budget bill includes an investment of $6.8 million in state funds that will fix an issue with the federal Heat and Eat program, restoring approximately $76 per month in food assistance for 338,000 low-income families. The League has worked closely on the Heat and Eat issue since it arose in 2014. The statement may be attributed to League Vice President Karen Holcomb-Merrill.

“We have been working on this issue for several years, and on behalf of the 338,000 families who will soon have more food to eat with this fix, we applaud the Legislature for their passage of this bill. In particular, we want to recognize the persistence of Representatives Jeff Irwin and Sam Singh and Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. to keep this issue prominent from the budget process in the spring until now. We also want to thank Appropriations Chairs Representative Al Pscholka and Senator Dave Hildenbrand for upholding this amendment, and all legislators from both sides of the aisle who voted for it this afternoon.

“At a time when political tensions have been high, it’s refreshing to see policymakers come together on this important issue to help curb hunger for Michigan residents, including seniors and people with disabilities. We now look to Governor Rick Snyder to keep up the consensus and sign the bill to turn this good news into good policy.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

New report shows 18 percent rate increase statewide in pregnant women smoking

For Immediate Release: November 17, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Smoking, other maternal and child health factors worse by race and geography

LANSING—The rate of expectant mothers in Michigan who reported smoking while pregnant increased by 18 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to a new report released today. The number of preterm births (less than 37 weeks gestation) also increased significantly over the time period, with the rate going up by 20 percent statewide.

This information and other surprising data are found in the Michigan League for Public Policy’s Right Start: 2016 annual report on maternal and child health, which reviews eight indicators on maternal and child health from 2008 to 2014 for the state, by race, by county and for 22 of the state’s larger cities and townships. In 2008, 21,966 Michigan mothers, or 18 percent of all births, reported smoking during pregnancy. That number increased to 24,273 and 21 percent of births statewide in 2014. Smoking during pregnancy is associated with preterm births, babies with low birthweight, infant deaths and other complications.

Not surprisingly, the number of preterm births also went up in Michigan, from 12,619 preterm births (10 percent of all births) in 2008 to 13,855 preterm births (12 percent) in 2014. Premature and low-birthweight babies face immediate health concerns, but also suffer from long-term issues.

“To ensure that Michigan kids count, we have to help them and their mothers get the right start, and this report shows that more needs to be done to promote and support healthy pregnancies” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “With all of the information out there on the risks of smoking, the increase in pregnant women who are smoking in this day and age is particularly startling. With these numbers, you would think it is 1986, not 2016. Funding and programming cuts clearly have consequences, and the state urgently needs to reinvest in evidenced-based smoking prevention and cessation efforts for pregnant women.”

While the rate of births to white mothers smoking during pregnancy remains the highest of the state’s three largest racial/ethnic groups (23.5 percent), the rate of births to Hispanic mothers smoking while pregnant increased the most—rising by over 46 percent between 2008 and 2014. The rate increased by 16 percent for African-American mothers and 17.5 percent for white mothers. Similarly, the rate of Latina mothers whose babies are born too soon rose by more than 26 percent over the trend period. The report also found that generally rural counties with smaller populations experienced the highest rates of mothers smoking during pregnancy.

Reduced budget funding is a primary culprit in the lack of targeted outreach and services to help pregnant mothers quit smoking, resulting in the increase in pregnant women smoking and the number of preterm births in the state. In the 2017 budget, including state and federal funds (excluding Medicaid dollars), smoking prevention and cessation initiatives were funded at $3.78 million, which is down 34 percent from budget year 2008. Currently, there is $10,800 targeted to prenatal outreach, up $800 from the 2008 budget. These funds are for local and statewide programs and one goal is to eliminate disparities by race/ ethnicity, geography, income level, type of job and gender and sexual orientation.

There is some good news on maternal and child health in Michigan, as five of the eight indicators saw improvement across the state between 2008 and 2014. This included a 30 percent rate decrease in births to women under age 20 statewide, a 10 percent rate decrease in repeat teen births, and a 21 percent rate decrease in births to mothers with no high school diploma or GED. The other two areas of improvement were a nine percent rate decrease in the number of pregnant women who received late or no prenatal care and a one percent rate decrease in the number of low-birthweight babies.

A mother’s education level is one of the better predictors of whether she will access adequate prenatal care, smoke during pregnancy and be financially secure, which are all connected to both the mom’s and child’s well-being. The improvement in teen births is likely the result of a combination of factors, such as fewer teens having sexual intercourse, increased access to long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), and an increase in the use of postpartum contraception. The 2015 Right Start report focused more in-depth on the state’s decline in teen births.

The 2016 Right Start report outlines several recommendations for policies and practices that lawmakers and health workers can pursue to help improve maternal and child health for Michigan residents, including:

  • Boost efforts to reduce and prevent smoking, especially during pregnancy and among youth.
  • Ensure strong implementation of e-cigarette and hookah regulations to reduce smoking among youth.
  • Increase cultural competency training with all health workers and grow a diversified workforce.

“By focusing on education and awareness efforts and embracing realistic policies, Michigan has made significant strides in reducing teen births and births to mothers without a diploma or GED,” Guevara Warren said. “The assumption that smoking is not a relevant issue for pregnant mothers today is obviously incorrect, and policymakers now need to place that same emphasis on smoking while pregnant, including targeted efforts by race and location.”

In addition to the full report, localized press releases and individual profiles of 22 communities can be found at http://www.mlpp.org/kids-count/michigan-2/2016-right-start, including information on county efforts to address smoking cessation for pregnant women. Information will also be available online by county and for Michigan’s 69 largest cities and townships at the Kids Count Data Center. For more information on the League’s Kids Count work, go to www.mlpp.org/kids-count.

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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, the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and John E. Fetzer Fund of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way. Right Start is a product of Kids Count in Michigan, a project of the League.

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
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

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.

“Race is not easy or comfortable to talk about, and that’s exactly why we decided to make it the focus of our policy forum this year,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “If we’re going to address and work to resolve systemic racism in Michigan, we need to address it head-on and have a unified front between elected officials, advocates, journalists and residents to address it, and that’s what we’ve tried to do today.”

In conjunction with today’s event, the League also released a new report, Race, place & policy matter in education. The report exposes deep disparities in educational opportunities for Michigan children based on income, race and geography that stem from poor state budget and policy decisions that have widespread economic and generational repercussions.

Students of color are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, due in part to their parents’ lack of economic and educational opportunities. Race appears to play a role in school discipline practices, reading proficiency, high school graduation, college-readiness and attainment, and finally lower levels of employment and earnings as adults.

“As our work finds time and again, there are racial disparities in nearly every area of public policy—health, reading proficiency, school suspensions and expulsions, college attainment and student debt, incarceration rates, employment and income,” Jacobs said. “It’s time for policymakers to stop arguing about causes and instead agree that these disparities are wrong and bad for us all, taking responsibility that they all must come together to pursue solutions. These inequities are caused by decades of bad policy decisions that continue today and will keep affecting each subsequent generation until systemic changes are made.”

The League continues to focus both its mission and work on racial inequity as well as poverty, examining all policies through a race equity lens. In addition to the report released today, some other recent materials produced by the League that examine racial disparities in different policy areas include: an analysis of Census poverty data, the Back to School Report on rising tuition and student debt, a fact sheet on income inequality and a review of the 2017 state budget.

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NOTE: Diverse experts and interested parties from around the state participated in four panel discussions and one workshop as part of today’s forum. The sessions and participants were:

Solutions for Cities in Crisis: Moderated by Regina Bell, W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Panelists are Donnell White, Detroit Branch NAACP; Nayyirah Shariff, Flint Rising; and Stacey Stevens, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

Government’s Role in Achieving Race Equity: Moderated by State Representative Erika Geiss. Panelists are Jorge Zeballos, Center for Diversity and Innovation at Kellogg Community College; Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County, which is a member of the national Government Alliance on Race Equity (GARE); and Martha Gonzalez-Cortes, Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

The Next Move: Taking Equitable Action for Change (Workshop): Presenters include Peter Hammer, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights; eliza q. perez-ollin, Detroit Equity Lab; Kate Baker, Detroit Historical Society; and Lisa Leverette, Community Connections Grant Program and Lower Eastside Community Grant Program.

From Watchdog to Dog-Whistle: Media’s Role in Reporting on Race: Moderated by Martina Guzmán, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Race and Journalism Fellow at Wayne State University. Panelists are Dr. José Flores, La Voz Magazine; Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal; Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press; and Michelle Srbinovich, general manager of WDET FM.

The Business Case for Racial Equity: Moderated by Alfredo Hernandez, Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. Panelists are Don Jones, New Economy Initiative; Jason D. Lee, Focus: HOPE; Abe Carillo, Herman Miller; and Sharon Darby, Cascade Engineering.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Passage of third-grade reading bill good start, broader efforts to address poverty still needed

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

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.

“This effort to improve third-grade reading in Michigan has been challenging, but the final compromise passed today keeps the needs of Michigan students and their families at the forefront. While there are areas that still could be improved with this bill, we appreciate the diligence of lawmakers to see this bill come to fruition and to thoughtfully work on an agreement that is largely positive. We are pleased to see the number of exemptions, including empowering parents, as well as early and ongoing interventions and extra support for English language learners.

“Literacy is the cornerstone of all other learning through school and into the workforce, and Michigan’s third-grade reading numbers have been declining for too long. This bill will help turn things around and get Michigan students back on track. While this addresses one part of the equation of Michigan’s faltering education outcomes, more targeted efforts are needed to address poverty and hunger, which significantly affect learning for kids of all ages and grades.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

League applauds action to improve third-grade reading

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy issued the following statement on today’s action on third-grade reading legislation. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs.

“The League supports this effort to improve Michigan kids’ reading proficiency and their overall path to becoming lifelong learners. We know how important literacy is to not only educational achievement, but to overall well-being into adulthood, and we are pleased to finally see action on this critical issue for kids and to help Michigan become a top ten state in education. We maintain our concerns with mandatory retention, but while this bill may not be perfect, that is the nature of compromise. We are pleased with the number of exemptions, including the ability of a parent to make the request. The bill contains many other positive provisions, such as early and ongoing interventions to help students struggling, and is ultimately a strong step in addressing this issue.”

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Census data shows Flint and Detroit poverty worst in nation, people of color still struggling statewide

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Michigan’s economic “recovery” still dependent on zip code, skin color

LANSING—Data released by the United States Census Bureau today shows that Flint and Detroit have the highest poverty rates of comparable cities in the United States and that Michiganians of color are struggling, issues the Michigan League for Public Policy has been working hard to address. (more…)

League says Great Start report underscores need for urgent action to invest in, improve child care

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Lawmakers have 16 days—and three session days—to act before $20M in federal child care dollars disappears

LANSING—The Michigan League for Public Policy continued its push for greater investment in child care, issuing the following statement on a new research report released today by the Michigan Department of Education-Office of Great Start and Public Sector Consultants, Inc. The statement can be attributed to Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs. (more…)

Michigan tuition costs double to sixth highest in U.S., state college funding down $262M since 2003

For Immediate Release
September 6, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

Data shows 62 percent of Michigan college students graduate with debt, averaging $29,450; nationally, college debt worse for students and families of color

LANSING—Public university tuition in Michigan increased by 100-150 percent since 2003 and is the sixth highest tuition in the country according to a new Back to School Report released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy. (more…)

Michigan income inequality 11th worst in nation, wealthiest 1% make 22 times more than rest of workers

For Immediate Release
July 26, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

New League analysis to examine income inequality, severe impact on women and workers of color

LANSING—Michigan has the 11th worst income gap in the nation according to a new fact sheet, Time to End Income Inequality, issued today by the Michigan League for Public Policy. The fact sheet shows that the top 1% of Michigan’s earners make 22 times more than the bottom 99%. (more…)

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