Monthly Archives August 2014

Child Care Tax Credits Part 4 – Supporting Michigan Businesses

August 21, 2014 – This is the fourth and final blog in a series about opportunities to improve the quality of Michigan’s child care system through tax credits.  This week, I’m going to blog more in-depth about Louisiana’s tax credits for businesses and what a similar model could do for Michigan.

In Louisiana, businesses are eligible for a tax credit in several ways – one for contributions to Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, and another specifically for business who support employees’ child care needs.  I’m going to talk a bit more about the business credit that helps employees.  Employers can support their employees’ child care needs in three ways:

  1. By making payments directly to a child care facility for employees’ children;
  2. By purchasing child care slots provided or reserved for employees’ children; or
  3. By constructing, renovating, expanding, or repairing a child care center, purchasing equipment, or maintaining or operating a center.

Businesses can receive a tax credit as a percentage of their child care related investments based on the quality rating of the facility that they are investing in.  Because high quality child care costs are so expensive, shifting some of this financial burden off low-income working families will provide a significant benefit to both employees and employers.  For businesses, this type of tax credit will have significant benefits for them as it relates to their day-to-day operations and ultimate success.  With more women in the workforce than ever before and low-income families reliant on all adults in the household working to make ends meet, the needs of working families must be addressed to ensure that businesses can thrive.  We know that inconsistent child care results in more missed work days by parents, which is particularly problematic for low-income parents who struggle to afford consistent child care.  Offering on-site child care or a child care benefit to a high quality program will ensure that staff have reliable child care that will allow them to be more productive at work.  And, offering a child care benefit will allow businesses to attract and retain quality staff.  Additionally, a tax credit for donations made for infrastructure improvements of already existing child care programs provides an enticing incentive for businesses to invest in those quality improvement efforts.

For families, this business tax credit will increase access to higher quality, reliable child care that supports their children’s learning and development.  High quality child care can ensure that young children are building the foundational base they need to succeed in school, and help school-aged children stay academically engaged and on-track. In short, a business tax credit will lead to more productive employees whose children are in high quality child care settings, which will ensure that businesses thrive today and that the workforce of tomorrow will be prepared for Michigan’s global economy.

If high quality child care is something you, your family or your neighbors struggle to access, please consider talking to candidates running for public office about this issue.

Learn more about opportunities through child are tax credits in our Issues for Michigan’s Children publication.

-Mina Hong

Child Care Tax Credits Part 3 – Supporting Child Care Teachers and Directors

August 13, 2014 – This is the third in a series of blogs about opportunities to improve the quality of Michigan’s child care system through tax credits.  This week, I’m going to blog more in-depth about Louisiana’s tax credits for child care teachers and directors and what a similar model could do for Michigan.

In Louisiana, child care teachers and directors are eligible for a tax credit if they work for a licensed child care facility that participates in the quality rating system and are enrolled in the Louisiana Pathways Child Care Career Development System.  The voluntary Pathways system is a mechanism for training and education for child care professionals that provides scholarships and tracks training received.  The refundable tax credit is based on the education level attained ranging from $1,606 to $3,212.  In essence, this tax credit is a wage supplement or salary bonus since the credit is provided directly to the child care teacher or director.

Here in Michigan, like the rest of the country, our child care professionals are sorely underpaid for the invaluable work they do.  We know that, across-the-board, programs struggle to pay child care professionals a livable wage.  For teachers working in programs that serve children in the state’s child care subsidy program, this issue is exacerbated.  A child care tax credit for professionals similar to the Louisiana model would provide an opportunity for our child care teachers and directors to continue on a path of professional development – increasing the quality of the care that Michigan children are in – while also providing some salary boost to support those personal investments.

Michigan has a structure set-up to help child care professionals achieve higher education credentials through the TEACH scholarship program.  The TEACH scholarship covers the cost of tuition – whether it be for a single early childhood education course or for individuals seeking a Child Development Associate, an Associate degree, or a Bachelor’s degree – as well as the cost of books and a travel stipend.  However, TEACH does not provide any ongoing salary bonuses for teachers and directors who have attained higher education levels.  A child care tax credit similar to Louisiana would provide an opportunity for teachers and directors to seek professional development opportunities and allow for some financial incentive to support those efforts, better supporting Michigan’s child care professionals and improving the quality of child care.

If high quality child care is something you, your family or your neighbors struggle to afford, please consider talking to candidates running for public office about this issue.

Learn more about opportunities through child are tax credits in our Issues for Michigan’s Children publication.

-Mina Hong

Politics to Policy

August 7, 2014 – I’ll be the first to admit it. I hate politics. Being in the public policy field, people sometimes ask me if I ever think about running for public office. I just laugh. And never is there a time more brutally and unapologetically political than an election season. This seems to be particularly true leading up to primary elections when candidates are trying to market themselves as more conservative or more liberal than their challengers. Matt enjoys all of the politics (read his political perspectives on the outcomes of the primary elections), and we are glad that he is able to translate his enthusiasm and interest into great policy strategy for Michigan’s Children. That said, I’m looking forward to moving past the politics and getting back to conversations about public policy. In other words, lifting up what matters to Michigan families, and ensuring that public policies and investments are made in the best interest of kids.

Now that we’re looking forward to the general elections, we can thankfully move in that direction. The general elections are a time when we can really begin to ascertain the differences between candidates on issues that matter to children, youth and families and see if we agree with how they say that they will tackle areas of concern. Now is the time when we can really understand how our candidates will or will not prioritize the needs of Michigan’s most challenged kids and families. At Michigan’s Children, we have highlighted some of our priorities this election season, and you’ll be hearing more and more from all of us about each of these areas in the months to come:
• Two-generation strategies that ensure parents have opportunities to get ahead in life while their children are connected to high quality learning opportunities.
• Adequately supporting the needs of Michigan’s most challenged young children from birth through age three.
• Increasing access to high quality child care for children from birth through age 12.
• Expanding learning opportunities for students and young people who face educational challenges to ensure that all young people can obtain a high school credential.

Maybe some of these issues resonate with concerns that you have about your family or your community. If so, please visit the Sandbox Party website to learn more about What’s At Stake this election season, and of course check back to Michigan’s Children’s Resources section as well.

While I hate politics, I still believe in the system. Sure, many Americans and Michiganians feel that our government is no longer functional – that Congress can’t get anything done, and that the Michigan Legislature no longer represents their views. But unless we get involved and stay involved in the democratic process (read Michele’s blog on her reflections on the primary elections and how it relates to this), we can’t expect Congress or the State Legislature to understand our priorities. This election season, I hope you will begin having conversations with candidates about what matters most to you, your family, and your community. If you’ve already started those conversations, kudos to you! Please keep them going and connect your friends and networks into those conversations so that more Michigan voters can be informed. And I hope you will join the 18% of Michigan’s registered voters who voted on Tuesday and get out to vote in November.

– Mina Hong

The Power of Our Vote

August 7, 2014 – Okay, I’ve admitted to you before that I love democracy – I love the power and the responsibility that comes with determining who will be making big decisions on my behalf, and assisting them make the best decisions possible along the way. For the past couple of months, we’ve been pestering folks as best we can to participate in the electoral process, beginning not in November, but beginning earlier than that in the Primary Elections that happened yesterday.

As we looked today at the winners and losers from yesterday and what that tells us about Michigan voters, candidates and their supporters, I was struck again by how close some of these Primary races were – several decided by fewer than 10 votes. Yes, you heard me, fewer than 10. I’ve had more people at my house for my book club! And many more decided by fewer than 100. We all know 100 people, and it is astounding to think that is all it takes to hand somebody success or failure at the polls. Now we know that turn out will be higher in November – typically we have about 20% (18% this last go round) of registered voters voting in the primaries and about 45% or so voting in the general election (okay, those dismal numbers are worthy of another blog another day), but contests will still be won often by small margins. Why would we put that kind of power into the hands of someone else?

The other thing that I was struck by was that once again, money alone doesn’t buy elections. Whenever I talk to people about getting more involved in policy advocacy, I always stress that even though the media never stops talking about the impact that money has in politics, it actually isn’t as impactful as some democratic system nay-sayers want to believe. That said, even I sometimes use the caveat that money makes more of a difference in statewide races, and in Congressional bids, then it does in more local races. Well, yesterday the people voting in the Republican primary of the 4th District Congressional seat, the one vacated by popular and powerful U.S. Representative Dave Camp, voted for the candidate who got outspent more than $5 to $1.

So what won that primary contest if it wasn’t money? Votes. Oh yeah, they always win. Candidates can get money from where-ever, and some of them do. You hear a lot about big monied interests funding campaigns that aren’t their own – campaigns in other communities, in other states. Well, that can get you advertising, staff and sometimes better strategy, but the only thing that gets you into office are the votes. Those can only come from the constituents in the district that you are vying to represent. They can only come from us, and we are all on even footing with votes – we each get one.

Now that we are moving into the general election, we have to take a closer look at how we decide which candidates are best to represent our interests – policy making in the best interest of children, youth and families. At Michigan’s Children, we’ll be focused on making sure that candidates are hearing about the issues that most concern constituents, and we’ll be paying close attention to what candidates are saying or not saying about the most critical investments needed in Michigan today:

1. Two-generation strategies that ensure children do well while their parents move ahead.
2. Earlier learning opportunities that optimize investments in 4-year old preschool.
3. Accessible, affordable, quality care for children and youth while parents can’t be with them.
4. Expanded learning opportunities beyond the school day.

Check back with the Sandbox Party and keep informed through our Sandbox Bulletin, our Early Learning Action Network and our Graduate Michigan Action Network. The power to move improved public policy for children, youth and families is, as always, in our hands.

– Michele Corey

Four Things We Learned from This Year’s Primaries

August 6, 2014 – This year’s all-important primary election has come and gone and four themes emerged from the results:

1. The battle for the soul of the Michigan Republican Party has not been decided. Establishment Republican interests took on Tea Party/Conservative candidates in numerous races throughout the state, and while both sides scored some major victories, no clear-cut winner emerged. With Todd Courser of Lapeer, Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell, and Gary Glenn of Midland all winning highly contested open GOP primaries in which establishment Republican groups spent huge money supporting their opposition, the Tea Party faithful can point to some impressive victories in the state House. Similarly, Congressman Justin Amash’s high-profile victory over establishment-supported Brian Ellis in the 3rd Congressional district was another big win for the Tea Party cause.

On the other side of the coin, the establishment-supported candidates emerged in the other three closely watched GOP Congressional primaries: Mike Bishop defeated Tom McMillin in the 8th Congressional district, David Trott bested Congressman Kerry Bentivolio in the 11th Congressional district, and John Moolenaar beat Paul Mitchell in the 4th Congressional district. The Republican establishment scored another impressive victory in the 37th state Senate district’s GOP primary with state Rep. Wayne Schmidt handily defeating state Rep. Greg MacMaster in a nasty northern Michigan battle.

This mixed bag of results from these Tea Party vs. Establishment fights ensures the ideological fight for control of the Michigan GOP will continue through at least the next Legislative session.

2. The power of incumbency remains formidable in state Legislative elections. With the notable exception of State Rep. Frank Foster losing in the 107th state House district, all incumbents from both political parties were successful in their state Legislative primaries. This trend has continued for several election cycles now where even well-financed and well-organized challengers have virtually no chance of knocking off incumbents in primary elections. This reality holds true in both Democratic and Republican primaries and ultimately discourages many potential candidates from pursuing Legislative office.

3. Strong female candidates making their gender an issue have success. Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence emerged from a tough Democratic primary in the 14th Congressional district at least in part by successfully articulating the need for more women in government and leadership positions in our society and by standing on her support from Women’s Rights groups.

4. Low-voter turnout equals incredibly close races. Statewide, overall turnout for the August primary came in at right around 18 percent of all registered voters. This abysmally low number, combined with the fact that most Legislative and Congressional districts have been gerrymandered to be not competitive in the November general elections, means a small minority of Michigan’s citizens actually elected our next representatives in our state and federal government. Also, the low turnout led to numerous races being decided by fewer than 100 votes and in some races even less than 10 votes separated the top finishers. If turnout continues to remain this low in primary elections, the extremes of both political parties will continue to have undue influence and the voices of the vast majority of Michigan’s citizens will go unheard.

With the primary election behind us, supporters of children, youth, and family issues can now turn our attention to the November General Election. With the candidates for Governor and the open U.S. Senate seat traveling around the state spreading their message to voters, as well as candidates for Congressional and Legislative offices out in your communities, everyone will have an opportunity to find out how the candidates feel about the issues that are important to them. Please use www.michigansandboxparty.org as a resource to become engaged in this critical upcoming election.

– Matt Gillard

A Young Voter’s View of Election Day: The Future in my Hands

August 4, 2014 — As I searched Michigan State University’s giant resource fair for the “golden club” that would help me “find myself” during freshman year, a voice in all the promotional speeches caught my attention.

“Hey! Do you want to register to vote?”

In all the commotion, a short, red-headed girl from the MSU Democrats’ booth held out a pen and a clipboard toward me with a voter registration form on it.

She was not asking me to vote Democrat. She was not asking me where my values align. She was asking me to become a part of my own future. She was giving me a chance to share my voice in elections.

Without a doubt in my mind, I knew that I wanted to register, to have the ability to vote, whether I used it or not. I did not hesitate when I took the pen from her outreached hand and started to fill out the form.

Almost four years later, that feeling has not left. I am still excited to go into the booth Aug. 5 and Nov. 4, to stick my voice to the “Man” with my vote, and to choose who I think will represent my community’s best interests.  I can never repay what that girl gave me.

Actions like hers, being there and putting the thought in our head that — “Oh right! I am a student, but I am also an American citizen!” — encourages people my age to vote. And there are multiple shared issues at stake that we need to be vocal about. Among them:

School cuts: Youths still have a decent memory of what we left in high school. Cuts to school funding prevented some of us from receiving the best education possible and maybe even from getting into the college that we wanted. Some struggled worse than others, but I remember when we were still using history books a decade old.

Student debt: When coming to college, sometimes all we can see are dollar signs, and not in a good way. First school cuts, than glaciers of student debt! Compared to other states, Michigan ranks 45th in college affordability, as found in the 2013 “Trends in College Pricing” report. The Senate Fiscal Agency reports that Michigan higher education funding is down $500 million from 2000.

Between underfunded schools and skyrocketing tuition, education these days seems more like a game of pick your poison. Everyone’s future will feel these effects.

Marriage Equality: College is about being exposed to new cultures and people, and we get to know friends and people with diverse sexual orientations. They are people, your children, no better or worse than any other person. We care about our friends and we want them to be just as happy and treated just as fairly as heterosexual citizens. Whether if you agree with it or not, marriage equality is supported by 81 percent of 18 -29-year-olds, according to a 2013 poll by the Washington Post and ABC News.

It’s our future. It feels far away and we may have no clear idea where we see ourselves in it yet, but we shape it to the way we want it with the proactive actions we take today. This week, it starts with who we choose to elect.

-Marlee Sherrod

Marlee Sherrod is working as a summer intern for Michigan’s Children while attending Michigan State University. She is studying Comparative Cultures and Politics at MSU’s James Madison College of Public Affairs, and English. Her opinions are her own, and are not intended to represent Michigan’s Children.

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