elections

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.

Our Kids Futures Hinge on Getting Out the Vote

July 31, 2014 – It’s the height of the election season and we’re all hearing promising political rhetoric from public office-seekers about children being a priority in our state.  Yet, last week’s 25th annual KIDS COUNT Report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation told us Michigan continues to move down the national rankings of well-being indicators for kids.  Once again our ranking has sadly slipped, putting us in 32nd place and below the majority of states.

While it may be comforting to hear candidates and elected officials say they care about the future of Michigan’s children, words without action aren’t enough.  What we need — and the public should demand this election season — are policies and investments that decidedly move our children and state forward with clear vision and united resolve.  Failing to make progress is not good for our children, youth and families.  And it’s not good for the future security and vitality of our communities and our state.

This is not acceptable and needs to change now.  It is the best reason to become an active voter this election season.  Our most powerful tool to impact child well-being in Michigan is to vote in the August 5 primary.

Michigan’s Children has made it a priority this summer to encourage people who care about kids to take a serious look at who’s running for office in their communities, to learn where they stand on the issues most important to their children, youth and families, and to make it a point to vote in their primaries. (Our Sandbox Party website at michigansandboxparty.org is focused on the election with resources and tools to help voters.)

This year, the state will elect the next governor, all 110 state House members and 38 state senators, as well as members to Congress from across the state and the first new U.S. senator from Michigan in nearly two decades.  We are promoting election advocacy in earnest this summer because we know that redistricting and the manner in which political boundaries have been re-drawn have made nearly all primary races pivotal this year.   In many areas the winners in August are likely to become your representative in November.

When government representatives make children and families a priority, it increases the likelihood for investments in health, social and education supports children need to succeed in school and in life.  Particularly for challenged children – those from low-income families and families of color – these investments are critical for building a brighter future for Michigan as a whole.

While the stakes are high this season, we also know that most registered voters don’t come out in August primaries.  To that we say, don’t let other people decide who will represent you and your families for the next two and four years.

When voter turnout is high, candidates have to appeal to the views of the majority of the citizens they are running to represent.  When voter turnout is low and relegated to those only at the far ends of the political spectrum, candidates need only to cater to those on the far right or far left and the opinions of the majority of their perspective constituents are ignored.

This is an extremely important election for children, youth and families in Michigan.  If you care about children and want a government that makes children a priority, get out and vote.  Remember, kids can’t vote.  That’s why you should vote with them in mind.  Please vote August 5th.

– Matt Gillard

Portions of this blog were published as an opinion piece in the Detroit News on 7/31/14.

Making Kids’ Education Count in Michigan

July 22, 2014 — The Annie E. Casey Foundation today released their 25th annual examination of how kids are doing nationally, and state-by-state.  According to the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book, Michigan ranks 32nd in the nation on child, youth and family well-being, nearly landing us in the bottom third of the states.  As if this wasn’t bad enough news on its own, ten years ago we ranked 24th and have been making a pretty steady slide down since that time.

The national Data Book builds the composite rank from our ranking in four crucial areas: health, family and community (in both, MI ranks 29th), economic well-being (MI ranks 34th) and education, where we hold our worst national rank of 38th.  Yes, you heard me.  We rank in the bottom quarter of the states on the children’s issue that honestly, gets the most press.   Our ranking here wasn’t great last year either – we ranked 32nd – but things are just getting progressively worse.

The vast majority of candidates tell us education is one of their top priorities.  In addition, of all the important needs facing children, youth and families in Michigan, our state policymakers spend the most time on this one too, and rightly so.  We spend a great deal more public dollar on K-12 education than we spend on any of the other investments that matter to our future – it is actually a constitutional guarantee, as it must be for the future of our state.  Michigan had the first public school in the nation and has been an early adopter of all sorts of educational innovation, from the length of the school day to expanded learning opportunities over the years.  So how can we be doing so much more poorly than other areas of the country?

Because we are making less progress.  At this time when everyone is wringing their hands about the need for a better prepared workforce, more career and college readiness from our high school students, higher high school and college graduation rates to meet the demands of the workforce today and tomorrow, Michigan has recorded improvement on one of the four indicators measured by the Data Book, not as much as other states, and has remained basically stagnant on the other three, while other states have moved more dramatically.

Admittedly, this report did not reflect recent investment in the state’s preschool program, which we know will help us move the dime on that indicator in subsequent assessments.   That said, our success in linking high quality early childhood programs to a high quality K-12 system with strategies that promote learning and high school completion for those who struggle most is critical to improving our ranking.

These results simply reiterate what we’ve been blogging about for several months now.  This is campaign season, when policymakers are vying for our vote and making promises about what they will accomplish if we use that vote to get them elected.  They are all talking about education as a priority issue.  Now is the time to both listen to what they are suggesting for solutions that they would champion if elected and to make sure that they know what solutions that we would recommend.

-Michele Corey

Summer Learning Matters for Students and Policymakers

July 11, 2013 – The Michigan Department of Education recently released assessment test scores documenting that fewer than one in five Michigan high school students are prepared in all subjects for college and career as evidenced by scores on the ACT College Readiness Assessment. In addition, when we look at this spring’s Michigan Merit Exam (the high school MEAP tests), there are huge scoring gaps in every subject by race, economics and other challenging student and family circumstances.

So we look to the reasons why, well documented in the research. One of those reasons is the difference in experiences that children and youth have access to in the summer.

There is a pile of research documenting that all kids lose some educational gains over the summer. I see that in my own three kids and try to make sure that they are engaged in activities that keep their minds moving ahead. Okay, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes the activities that I’d love to have them do, or that they are really excited about doing, are just too expensive, or just too far away from our house, or they just don’t work for our complicated schedule with all parents working. Now think about that for more challenged families with less access to transportation and less flexibility in their jobs.

Research suggests that fully two-thirds of the reading achievement gap by the 9th grade is attributable to summer learning loss alone. Each year, we look at MEAP and ACT test results for our young people. Each year, we express disappointment that more of them aren’t doing better and we express particular concern about the gaps between our highest achievers and our lowest. So, let’s do something about that.

In the last budget cycle, as we have for many years, Michigan’s Children joined with others in the Michigan After-School Partnership to call for state investment in expanded learning opportunities – those opportunities that take place outside of the traditional school day: primarily before- and after-school and during the summer. Those same opportunities that research points to as a solution to summer learning loss and that go far to lessen the achievement gap. As you likely know, Legislators in the Michigan House included a small amount of money to support those programs, a start back onto the path of larger, necessary state investment. But that small investment didn’t make it into the final budget passed last month, despite the efforts of our Legislative champions and ourselves.

In this campaign season, we need to remind those vying to represent us that they can commit to make decisions backed by years, often decades, of research that can change the educational odds for kids in Michigan. It does take investment, and we can help them better understand where that investment can really matter by inviting them to see great programming, talking with them about what is needed in our communities and then making sure that they are addressing those needs while they are on the campaign trail.

Our work this summer is to do just that.

– Michele Corey

How Will You Spend Our Money?

July 2, 2014 — How will you spend our money?  This is a question that all candidates running for the Michigan legislature should hear between now and November.  The fiscal year 2015 budget was just signed into law by Governor Snyder early this week and provides a great tool for you to utilize to talk to candidates to learn about their priorities.  You can ask them what they are glad to see in the state budget and where they believe there is inadequate funding or inappropriate investment or disinvestment.

We often talk about the state budget as the state’s expression of its priorities and a tool to address disparities that we see in child and family outcomes by race, income, and other challenging factors.  Targeted investments can work to reduce disparities – or increase equity – and bad budgeting decisions can increase disparities that lead to more challenges for Michigan children and families who may already be struggling.  The same is true for the federal budget.

We’ve highlighted key strategies to increase equitable opportunities for Michigan kids in our latest Budget Basics publication – budget strategies that can reduce disparities.  If you get an opportunity to have a more in-depth conversation with a candidate, you may want to dig a little deeper with him/her to understand how they will be prioritizing equity-promoting strategies.  Here are some possibilities you may want to address.

  • Child poverty continues to rise in Michigan, though many elected officials like to talk about the state’s improving economy.  Why do you think poverty is on the rise and what strategies would you take to reverse this unacceptable trend?
  • Child abuse and neglect is on the rise in Michigan, and children of color continue to be more likely to be removed from their homes than their white counterparts even though they aren’t maltreated at higher rates.  How would you suggest that Michigan work to prevent child abuse and neglect, and how can the state tackle this unacceptable disparity?
  • Michigan has increased funding for four-year-old preschool by $130 million over the last two years.  This is a great strategy to reduce the school readiness gap.  However, research shows that the first signs of the achievement gap can emerge in infancy.  What budget strategies would you prioritize to ensure that our youngest children – our infants and toddlers – have a strong start in life?
  • Much attention has been paid to third grade reading, since too many Michigan kids fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade – particularly students of color and students from low-income families.  What strategies would you use to ensure more kids can read proficiently?
  • As you know, Michigan continues to struggle to ensure that all young people achieve a high school credential.  What strategies would you explore to ensure that more Michigan young people are on a path to college or career?

Asking candidates questions related to equity now will send them a clear message that you expect them to address these issues if and when they are elected into office.  Make sure your candidates know what your top priorities are and that you can be a resource to them when elected.

Learn more about the state budget and how it will impact Michigan children and families by visiting our Budget Basics library.  To learn more about how you can get engaged this election season, visit the Michigan’s Children Sandbox Party website

-Mina Hong

Building a Stronger Foundation for the Right Start

June 19, 2014 – This week, the Michigan League for Public Policy released the annual report, Right Start in Michigan 2014: Maternal and Infant Well-Being in Michigan’s Legacy Cities.  Each year, this report looks at the status of babies and their mothers through a series of birth outcomes.   At the same time, Michigan’s Children updated our own look at high school graduation, High School Graduation Matters in the 2014 Elections.  Both of these documents clearly illustrate that in the next budget cycle and with the next Legislature, more needs to be done to improve graduation rates for our most challenged young people – particularly for young mothers.

As we’ve talked about many times, despite significant improvements over the last several years in high school dropout rates – those kids who leave or are pushed out of high school before graduation – Michigan continues to struggle with real improvement in our 4-, 5- or 6-year graduation rates.  We continue to see significant numbers of young people who are failing to graduate in a 4-year timetable, but are still trying to hang on toward a high school credential.  Unfortunately, we’ve also seen flat or falling investment in the very programs that work for older youth.

The educational attainment of mothers is a key predictor of future success for children.  Not only do parents with limited education have more limited income, but they may also face more challenges navigating systems like education and health care for their children.  In 2012, fully one in eight births in Michigan was to a mother without a high school credential.  We know that it will take young women who give birth in their teens, and often the young men who have fathered those children, more time and more flexible paths to succeed in high school, and we know that there are limited resources for adults who may want to come back to complete that credential after their children are a bit older.

This is unacceptable.   The impact is clear – high school graduation at LEAST is essential to navigate our current economy and society.  The more young people we leave behind because we haven’t provided enough flexible paths to help them build a strong educational foundation for their families; the more challenged Michigan’s communities, schools and economies will remain.  And as the Right Start report indicates, this includes leaving behind our youngest children who may then face subsequent challenges as well.

Luckily, the elections in August and November give all of us a bully pulpit to make sure that decision-makers understand that we expect educational success for everyone, and that we will be glad to assist them if they commit to that path once in office.  Be sure to talk to candidates about this issue if it is one you are particularly passionate about.  Learn more about how you can get engaged in the elections by visiting the Michigan Sandbox Party website.

– Michele Corey

Mother’s Day Reflections

May 12, 2014 – Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day as a mom.  While I’ve been a mom for just under six months, there are so many supports that I am grateful to access that have helped my family.  Some of these same supports, unfortunately, too many moms in Michigan cannot access because our public policies and budget-making do not prioritize them.

First, I was able to access family-planning services prior to getting pregnant that allowed me to plan for my pregnancy; and when I did become pregnant, I was able to access comprehensive prenatal care.  A healthy start in life begins well before babies are born – with women being healthy prior to conception, having the appropriate support to plan for their families, and then to access comprehensive prenatal care when they do become pregnant.  Passing the Healthy Michigan Plan last year was an excellent first step for our state to ensure that more low-income adults can access health care.  And we know that more investments are needed to support family planning and prenatal care outreach, particularly for Michigan’s most challenged women.

Additionally, and I’ve talked about this before, three days after my son was born, I received a home visit by a registered nurse.  Fortunately, our policymakers recognize the value of evidence-based home visiting services, particularly for the challenged families who benefit the most from these programs.  Congress provided funds supporting evidence-based home visiting services in Michigan’s most challenged urban communities; and the State Legislature is set to provide a $2.5 million expansion of home visiting services to rural Northern Michigan and the U.P.  However, even with this investment and already existing funds for voluntary evidence-based home visiting, we continue to serve only a fraction of eligible families.

And finally, upon my return to work, we’ve been utilizing a combination of high quality child care – with my son spending a couple days a week at a five-star rated child care center and several days a week with his grandmother, who also happens to be a former early childhood educator.  Unfortunately, too many families cannot access high quality child care that promotes early learning and development.  Michigan is making steps in the right direction to improve its child care subsidy program for very low-income families.  First, the state has been awarded the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant that has a focus on improving quality among home-based child care providers.  Like me, this is an option chosen by many families.  And the Legislature and the Governor support  child care subsidy program improvements to better serve Michigan’s lowest-income families.  Supporting high quality child care will ensure that more kids are kindergarten-ready and can reduce the academic achievement gap.

These are just a few of the supports that I was particularly thankful for this Mother’s Day – supports that our state is working to expand for Michigan’s most challenged moms.  Unfortunately, in many areas, Michigan continues to fall short.  The policy changes that were made to the Family Independence Program (cash assistance) and Food Assistance Program (food stamps) have made it more challenging for low-income families to provide financially stable homes, and the children are suffering.  Child poverty continues to be on the rise in our state.  And, child abuse and neglect prevention programs have been significantly underfunded as evidenced by the unacceptable rise in child maltreatment over the past decade.  As legislators wrap up the fiscal year 2015 budget and head back to their communities to campaign for the upcoming elections, we must ask them and all candidates to prioritize the needs of Michigan’s struggling children and families.  We must hold them accountable so that all children can have a great start in life.

-Mina Hong

Raising Our Voices in 2014

January 24, 2014 – With the holiday season behind us, the 2014 election season will soon take center stage. Unfortunately the future of children, youth and families in Michigan often gets lost during campaign hullabaloo, despite the fact that it is consistently a top priority for voters. Now is our chance to change that.

Of course Michigan’s Children will be closely following this year’s state budget process that began with clues in the Governor’s State of the State last week and will continue with his budget release in early February.  Of course we will be working with national partners like First Focus to intervene in strategic federal budget and policy conversations.  We will be keeping you posted about all of that, as we always do.  But my thoughts today are focused on the core of our democracy – how we chose the people who represent us and who we expect to make the best public policy decisions on our behalf.  Voters like yourselves around the state and around the country are deeply concerned about the challenges children, youth, their families and their communities face today and their prospects for the future. We know that the majority of voters believe that children’s lives are worse today than they were 10 years ago, and that our own children will be more challenged in building their lives, families and communities than we were.   Here’s the good news:  voters want to help. Even voters who believe government does too much want the federal budget to prioritize investments in children.  The dilemma is that people don’t always cast their votes with this in mind.

As in each election, decisions made by those we elect this November to local, state and federal offices will have direct and immediate consequences for our communities.  As the recent Kids Count in Michigan Databook again revealed, increasing shares of children, youth and families in Michigan are becoming even more vulnerable as poverty continues to rise and child abuse and neglect reaches additional victims.  To change this trajectory, Michigan needs leaders who will champion policy and program decisions proven to work.  Consider…

  • The federal Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lift five million children out of poverty every year, but Congress will decide whether those defenses shelter more children or fewer from poverty’s reach. One-fifth of children live in homes affected by hunger, and with nearly half of Food Stamps funds going to children, Congress will decide which children get the food they need and which go hungry. Efforts over the last several years by the Michigan Legislature to cut supports for low wage workers like the state EITC are counter-productive.  Michigan’s subsidized child care system needs major changes to make staying on the job the best family choice for parents struggling to meet children’s needs.  Workforce development resources need to be much better targeted toward the most challenged families and include better supports for education and training.  Members of our Legislature and the Governor will determine if we will chart a more family-friendly course in the coming years.
  • Our schools continue to struggle, in large part because a parent’s income rather than a child’s ability determines whether kids begin school ready to learn, have great schools to attend, and can continue with the extended learning supports that are so critical to building life and career success.  A federal-state pre-school partnership could help to level the playing field, but whether that proposal advances or falters will be up to the men and women we send to Washington. Michigan has taken huge steps in improving pre-school access, but has not advanced programming for infants, toddlers and their families, failing to close literacy and other gaps when they first appear – as early as nine months. And, our elected officials have failed to prioritize programs that improve the educational success of the most challenged young people and adults.
  • The most vulnerable children and families – those at risk of becoming or already involved in Child Protective Servies, foster care and juvenile justice systems continue to share with us that we’ve done little to prevent their suffering, even though we know so much about the factors that contribute to parents’ inability to appropriately care for their children.  We know so much about the relationship between involvement in juvenile crime and the failure of systems to help young people succeed.  We’ve seen some leadership from members of our Congressional Delegation on these issues, and hope that they continue to press for more investment and better services.  We have also seen a disinvestment in prevention by our State Legislators and need to expect more from them.

If citizens remain on the sidelines, these are not the issues that will dominate the airwaves this election year.  You have to be clear about what you want to hear from the candidates.  When a candidate gives a speech in your community, go, and ask about child poverty, about child maltreatment, about educational success. When a campaign calls you for a contribution, a yard sign, or to attend a rally, tell them to first send the candidate’s position papers on topics to improve the lives of children, youth and families in your community. When the local TV anchor signs up to moderate a candidate debate, send an email urging her to ask real questions about preventing child abuse and neglect, or improving the educational outcomes of all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, where they live or how much their parents earn.

Don’t ever doubt that in a democracy, our voices are still enough to make a real difference.

-Michele Corey

Portions of this blog were published as an opinion piece in the Detroit Free Press on 1/22/14 and offered to other news outlets around the state.

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