For Immediate Release
September 24, 2015
League report shows state’s fiscal policy hurting low-income residents and children, workers of color
Michigan’s 2016 state budget takes effect next week, and a new report shows that more needs to be done to ensure that all Michigan children and families have the opportunity to reach their full potential—regardless of race, ethnicity or zip code.
Today, the Michigan League for Public Policy released its report, The 2016 State Budget: Gains for Some Children and Families but Deep Disparities Persist. An Executive Summary of the report is also available. The report shows that the programs in the budget that would have the greatest impact on economic opportunity and equity for all people in Michigan are still underfunded.
“While some Michigan children, families and communities are benefiting from the state’s slow economic recovery, others have been left behind, in part because of state budget priorities,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president & CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “This report shows the resulting educational, health and economic disparities—from preschool to high school and beyond—that make it difficult for families to succeed, especially people of color, and will ultimately thwart the state’s economic growth for generations to come.”
Missing from the 2016 budget are investments in early learning for infants and toddlers (Ages 0-3) and other education initiatives to help at-risk children and youth; efforts to lessen child poverty and ensure that parents are able to work and support their children; and funds to give all young people access to the education or training that can lead to economic security.
Poverty continues to be a significant problem in the state, with Census data released last week showing that nearly 1 in 4 Michigan children is living in poverty. The state’s poverty rate for adults is still 14.3%, only dropping .8% in the last year. Both rates are worse than the national average. Those numbers are worse by race, with 48% of African-Americans and 32% of Hispanics living in poverty, while only 17% of whites live in poverty. Children are hit even harder, with 57% of African-American kids and 42% of Hispanic kids in Michigan having no parent with full-time, year-round employment.
Access to a high-quality education continues to be one of the most important building blocks to economic opportunity, yet many programs are still not receiving the funding they need to enable kids to succeed. State investment is still too low in early learning for children from birth through age 3, the time when the very architecture of the brain is developed in ways that affect lifelong learning and success. Children of color are less likely to be proficient in reading by fourth grade, with only 48% of African-American and 58% of Hispanic students being proficient compared to 77% of white students.
Low-income students and students of color are also less likely to have the resources they need to get a high school diploma, with dropout rates of 17% for African-Americans, 16% for economically disadvantaged students and 15% for Hispanics, compared to 7% for their white peers. The state’s targeted efforts to ensure that all children get a diploma—the key to postsecondary training and education—are still insufficient. Many students continue to be priced out of a postsecondary education and subsequent career opportunities.
“We are seeing more and more the need to take a two-generation approach to state policy because successful kids must first have financially secure parents,” Jacobs said. “Smart investments in families and communities can lift people out of poverty and help children reach their full potential and are a necessary part of the state’s economic strategy.”
The report points out that a 70% cut in the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit in 2011 hurt low-income working families and their children, along with changes in Family Independence Program policies—including a detrimental asset test for food assistance, restrictive lifetime limits for assistance and sanctions for families based on the truancy of a single child.
The report also notes positive budget changes, including the ongoing expansion of the state’s preschool program for low-income 4-year-olds, a new initiative to improve reading by fourth grade, the expansion of dental care to some children in three of the state’s most populous counties, additional funding for school districts with high numbers of low-income children, and changes to child care eligibility and payments.
For more information on the Michigan budget and the League’s ongoing analysis of it, visit http://www.mlpp.org/our-work/state-budget.
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.