For Immediate Release
September 28, 2017
As new state budget takes effect on Oct. 1, new report analyzes its implications on racial inequity
LANSING—The 2018 state budget takes effect on Sunday, Oct. 1, and with it comes some big wins as well as some major missed opportunities for policymakers to address barriers to opportunity for the state’s children of color, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy.
Despite the many victories in the 2018 state budget, a new report, Making Change: The State Budget as a Tool for Racial and Ethnic Equity, shows that historic and systemic state budget policies are creating significant disparities for people of color in Michigan. The report looks at the 2018 budget through a racial equity lens, reviewing the areas that the League’s annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book examines (economic security, health, education, family and community), and finds the budget still did not do enough to meet the needs of people of color—particularly children.
“Racial issues must be part of the conversation of setting policy. These historical inequities cannot be corrected if lawmakers attempt to create ‘colorblind’ legislation. They must look at data along racial lines to see the implication of the laws they are creating,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the League. “The state budget is seen as a statement of values, and this data shows that legislators need to make racial equity a priority. These issues are hurting our entire state, including our economy and our ability to attract and retain businesses and residents.”
Some key points to consider for Michigan’s budget and the state’s needs:
- Three of every 4 African-American students and two-thirds of Latino students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged.
- African-American children in Michigan are eight times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than White children.
- 55 percent of African-American children live in a home where no parent has full-time, year-round employment, more than double the percentage of non-Hispanic White children. 40 percent of Hispanic or Latino children have a similar lack of economic security.
- Two out of every 3 African-American children—and half of Latino children—rely on public health insurance programs.
- Children of color are more frequently born underweight and more likely to die before their first birthdays.
- Only 10 percent of African-American students and 19 percent of Latino students met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college readiness in 2015-16.
- 91 percent of the state’s teachers were White—making Michigan’s teaching workforce less diverse than the national average.
Despite this stark data on kids of color, the 2018 budget missed out on some key areas of investment needed to address these disparities, including: income and family support programs; local public health services; revenue sharing for local communities and public safety; early literacy programs; adult education; and financial aid. When developing the state’s budget, lawmakers must examine new and existing policies and investments through a racial equity lens.
If the budget is to positively impact all Michiganians, lawmakers must understand the importance of a more equitable plan to lift up communities of color. The report’s main policy recommendations for lawmakers include:
- Incorporating an analysis of the racial, ethnic and social justice impact of their budget options and recommendations and making sure it is considered as part of the budget process;
- Identifying gaps in data about the impact of state spending on communities, families and children of color; and
- Setting up systems for collecting racial data and other information needed to direct the state’s resources.
“A diverse population is key to a thriving state, and we must invest in children of color from an earlier age and do more to support their parents and communities,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Project Director for the League. “Michigan needs strong leadership by the governor and state lawmakers to address the undeniable and unacceptable racial and ethnic inequities that are holding Michigan back as a state.”
Michigan’s third-grade reading law passed last year is a good example of the unintended negative consequences of “colorblind” legislation. The law was created with positive intentions, but not all students have had the same access to resources, which means they don’t have the same rate of success. In fact, 56 percent of African-American students would have been subject to retention if the law had been implemented in the 2015-2016 school year.
Many kids who are struggling to read in third grade have been facing barriers their whole lives. For the retention law to be successful, it is critical that there be sufficient funding to also address the inadequate early learning opportunities for children of color, including identifying and treating developmental delays, and providing high-quality child care and preschool. Lawmakers must also work to address environmental and economic stressors that play a role in a child’s ability to thrive in school.
The third-grade reading law is just one example. The report highlights dozens of other cases where gaps in the data show the impact of state spending and programs on people of color. The League will continue to provide thorough analysis and passionate advocacy on the state budget and the many other policies that inordinately effect people of color and people with low incomes.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.