Race for Results in the State Budget

April 7, 2014 – Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Michigan League for Public Policyreleased Race for Results – a policy report exploring the role of race when it comes to child well-being in our nation.  The report features the Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level.  The findings for Michigan are not surprising.  Our African American children fare significantly worse than their national peers, with Michigan ranking as the third worst state in the nation when it comes to the well-being of African American children.  And, African American children fare significantly worse than their peers of other racial and ethnic backgrounds here in our own state.

For this reason – inequitable child outcomes that we know have existed for many years – here at Michigan’s Children we are dedicated to strengthening public policies in the best interest of children who face the most challenges.  We often talk about challenged families being families of color, low-income families, and families who struggle to provide safe and stable home environments – the same families whose children face too many barriers to succeed in school and in life.  The Race for Results findings prove to me and my team that our mission – to be a trusted, independent voice working to reduce disparities in child outcomes from cradle to career through policy change – is right on target as we strengthen public policies that will remove barriers to opportunity and lead to success for all children.

At Michigan’s Children, we focus on three opportunities – improving school readiness, ensuring safety at home, and improving college and career readiness – opportunities where we know that African American children continue to fare worse than children of other races.  We’ve been focused on some key priorities, like increasing state investments to support families with infants and toddlers since we know young families are more likely to be living in poverty and struggling to provide stability for their children.  The Race for Results report reaffirmed this priority, showing that too many African American children in Michigan live in low-poverty neighborhoods.  And because the academic achievement gap continues to be unacceptable – and was another major indicator in this report – Michigan’s Children continues to focus on increasing support for expanded learning opportunities to ensure that students who are behind academically have opportunities to catch-up outside of the traditional school hours and school year.

Right now, the Michigan Legislature is on spring break.  Many legislators are back in their districts listening to the concerns of their constituents.  When they return, they’ll be finishing up the state budget for fiscal year 2015 – a budget that could include increased investments for programs that support Michigan’s most challenged children and families.  One promising opportunity is to increase state funding for high quality after-school programming – a strategy proven to reduce the achievement gap.  Another is a $65 million increase in funding for the Great Start Readiness Program, Michigan’s successful preschool program for four-year-olds.  Please take advantageof the spring break and potential for new money today by letting your legislators know the persistent inequities in child outcomes outlined in Race for Results is unacceptable to you and should be for them.

-Matt Gillard