Kids Count report ranks Michigan behind in education outcome indicators

   LANSING, MI -  Michigan is lagging in nearly every aspect of child well-being, with a particularly alarming performance in education, according to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
   With the state backsliding in three out of four education indicators measured by the Casey Foundation, Michigan is ranked as one of the highest-risk states in the country for education outcomes. This is just the latest evidence that shows we need to improve public policy to better support Michigan kids.
   “Anyone who is concerned about the future of Michigan should take notice of this data, because our state’s struggles in child well-being today will be economic, employment and budgetary problems in the future,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “While the importance of early childhood education and the need to improve third-grade reading proficiency have both received more attention lately in Lansing, the state clearly needs to take a more comprehensive approach to turn around our dismal ranking.”
   Overall, Michigan ranked 32nd in child well-being in the 2017 Data Book, finishing behind all other Great Lakes states: Minnesota (4th), Wisconsin (12th), Illinois (19th), Ohio (24th) and Indiana (28th).
   The annual Kids Count Data Book uses 16 indicators to rank each state across four domains - health, education, economic well-being and family and community - that represent what children need most to thrive. In the 2017 Data Book, Michigan received the following national rankings:
   • 31st in economic well-being. On par with the national average, 7 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds are not attending school or working.
   • 41st in education. Seventy-one percent of eighth graders are performing below proficiency in math and 71 percent of fourth graders are reading below proficiency.
   • 29th in family and community. Since 2009, the percentage of children living in high-poverty areas has remained unchanged at 17 percent.
   • 17th in health. A bright spot for Michigan is the percentage of children with health insurance. Just 3 percent of  Michigan children lack coverage, an improvement on the national average of 5 percent.
   “Michigan lawmakers are always talking about ways to make Michigan a more appealing state, but no one is going to want to stay or move here to raise a family when our kids don’t have an opportunity to thrive,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Minnesota is consistently one of the top states in the nation in child well-being. They don’t achieve that by cutting taxes -  they achieve that by investing in education from preschool to higher education and other state services that people need. That is what Michigan legislators should be looking to emulate.”
   The Kids Count Data Book illustrates that Michigan’s so-called recovery is still not reaching many working families. Nearly half a million Michigan kids - around one in five -  live in poverty. Additionally, almost 700,000 Michigan kids -  roughly one-third of the state’s child population - live in a family where no parent has full-time employment. While the state’s unemployment rate has improved, many parents are working multiple or seasonal jobs for meager wages and are one unexpected expense away from a financial crisis.
   Child poverty as a whole - as well as the 17 percent of kids living in high-poverty neighborhoods  - are of concern for the state, and Michigan legislators should pursue a two-generation policy strategy that would better help kids and their parents thrive. This approach should include introducing affordable child care, equitable workplace policies, higher wages and investment in adult education.
   “The U.S. continues to have one of the highest child poverty rates among all developed countries,” said Laura Speer, associate director of policy reform and advocacy for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “This unfairly burdens our young people and the nation, costing an estimated $500 billion a year in reduced economic opportunities and increased health and criminal justice-related costs.”
   To fix these problems in Michigan, the League recommends: improving access and quality of prenatal care in Michigan; ensuring access to affordable, quality child care by raising eligibility levels for state child care subsidies and reforming the current system; and restoring the state Earned Income Tax Credit to 20 percent of the federal credit.
   Supplementing the Casey Foundation’s look at nationwide data through the 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book is the annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book from the Michigan League for Public Policy. The Michigan Data Book has state-level and county-by-county data and rankings. The two reports work in concert to annually illustrate where child well-being stands in America, in Michigan and in each county.

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