2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book: A Better Future Is Possible Through Policy Change

This column originally appeared in the Alpena News on June 23, 2021

This week, the Michigan League for Public Policy released the biannual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book that looks at state and county outcomes in four domains of child well-being: family and community, economic security, education, and health and safety. This year’s findings include an analysis of trends from, in most cases, 2010 to 2019. In some cases, 2020 data is used.

At the state and county level, in some ways, we are doing better by kids, teens and young adults than we were a decade ago: Michigan has one of the highest rates of health coverage for children, high school graduation rates are up and more kids have their basic needs met. However, in other ways, life is harder today for families with children: economic inequality has grown, education achievement levels have remained flat and declined in some areas, and young people have told us there’s more we should be doing. 

More specifically, a few major findings from the 2021 Data Book include:

  • Quality early learning experiences are not available to all families. Child care costs are considered unaffordable for most Michigan families, and less than half (48%) of 3- and 4-year-olds are in preschool. 
  • Michigan is one of 16 states that provides less funding to its highest-poverty school districts than to its lowest-poverty districts. 
  • Pre-COVID education proficiency rates are a concern, threatened by the impact of pandemic. The majority of third-graders and eighth-graders are partially or not proficient in reading and math. 
  • Michigan ranks 5th in the nation in children’s health insurance coverage. However, over half of kids were covered by an employer-sponsored health plan in 2019, with job losses over the last year putting coverage at risk. 
  • There are mixed results in family economic security. While fewer children live in poverty today (17.5%) than in 2010 (23.4%), the Michigan childhood poverty rate is higher than it was in 2000 (13.7%). 
  • The last few years show decreases in child neglect and abuse. While the rate of child neglect and abuse investigations increased 37% from 2010-2020, data show investigations actually decreased from 2019-2020, and confirmed victims and children placed in out-of-home care also decreased the last two years.

But a better future is possible. Policymakers have made significant improvements in child well-being over the last few years, and we can’t let up now. The need for continued investments that benefit the core of who we are—our families—remains, even as we see signs of the end of COVID-19 pandemic and begin to fully assess its impact. To continue to create a better future, the 2021 Data Book policy recommendations include:

  • Adopting a weighted school funding formula to fund schools based on community and student need.
  • Raising Michigan’s income eligibility threshold for state child care subsidies and increasing subsidy reimbursement payments to child care providers.
  • Improving job opportunities, working conditions and tax implications by restoring Michigan’s Earned Income Tax Credit, expanding the Homestead Property Tax Credit and implementing a graduated income tax. Making permanent the American Rescue Plan Act’s temporary expansion of the federal Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage working adults.
  • Eliminating barriers‒like low eligibility thresholds, child compliance and optional waiting periods‒that prevent families, including immigrant families, from accessing critical support programs.
  • Ensuring adequate funding for programs like 10 Cents a Meal, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as well as education, housing and work programs to support foster care youth exiting the system.   

It’s in our power to create a society and state where families and businesses thrive—where everyone’s needs are met, high-quality learning is available and affordable at any age, people experience physical and mental wellness, and families and communities are together and stronger than ever.  There is an opportunity cost with every school year, legislative cycle and season that passes without bold action. By analyzing data that’s available and honoring folks’ stories as another critical source of information, we can craft smart investments and policy solutions that work to level the playing field and improve child well-being in meaningful and lasting ways. 

 

The post 2021 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book: A Better Future Is Possible Through Policy Change appeared first on MLPP.

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