August 14, 2017

Monday, August 14, 2017

What’s Ahead for MI Child Care

We know child care costs are one of the top financial burdens facing working families in Michigan.

As research has shown, for working Michigan families who live above the federal poverty line, many still can’t afford the basics with the average cost of child care consuming more than 24 percent of their family budget.

CMF, authorized by our P-20 Education Affinity Group, board of trustees and Public Policy Committee, advocated for increasing the threshold of eligibility for child care subsidies to 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and for increased child care provider reimbursement rates.

This fall we will see changes in the system.

MDE recently shared that the state budget that goes into effect October 1 better supports access to affordable child care for Michigan families.

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) credits the improvement to the reimbursement rates to Building a Better Child Care System, a report funded by the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, for bringing attention to the issue.

The state budget increases reimbursement rates for child care providers and raised the eligibility threshold for families to access child care subsidies.

MDE shares child care changes on the way:

  • Child care provider reimbursement rates are now increased to better align Michigan with the 75th percentile market rate.

  • The new rates range from $1.60 per child/per hour to $5.50 per child/per hour, depending on the age of the child; the type of child care setting; and the current quality of the provider, based on the state’s Great Start to Quality star rating system.

  • Starting in October it’s estimated 1,300 more Michigan children will have access to child care assistance due to the state raising the threshold for child care subsidy eligibility from 125 percent of the federal poverty level to 130 percent.

  • The TEACH scholarship program also was increased for child care providers who are seeking to increase or receive their Great Start to Quality star rating.

  • The state budget also included a $5.5 million appropriation to cover background checks for about 86,000 individuals at child care providers.

MDE’s state superintendent Brian Whiston says the investments are promising and he, “hopes that the improvements will reverse a steady decrease in the number of child care providers available for Michigan families over the past five years.”

MDE cited that the number of child care centers in our state dropped from 11,179 in 2012 to 9,560 in 2016.

The Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) released a briefing paper last week highlighting where Michigan should continue to improve in child care support for Michigan families.

Highlights of MLPP’s recommendations include:

  • Use philanthropy’s work in this area as a model to guide state investments. Many CMF members are deeply involved in this work, MLPP cites both W.K. Kellogg and The Kresge Foundation’s efforts as models.

  • Expand eligibility to children and families in high‐poverty communities. MLPP recommends using an approach similar to the National School Lunch program, where all students in an area are eligible for a program without having to apply for the benefits.

  • Improve supply of care providers for off-hours, weekends. MLPP shares that Michigan could establish contracts with child care providers that ensure low-income families a spot with providers who are available on nights and/or weekends when the parents may need to work.

  • Increase eligibility for child care subsidies so more families with low wages can find and keep jobs. MLPP recommends as a next step the state should increase the eligibility threshold to 150 percent of the FPL.

CMF will continue to advocate for Michigan’s eligibility threshold to grow from 130 to 150 percent of the FPL, which would allow Michigan to expand access for Michigan families and join 33 other states that set eligibility at 150 percent or higher.

Want more?

Read CMF’s child care resolution.

Check out MLPP’s new budget brief.






Attracting and Retaining Michigan Teachers

An education note: The U.S. Department of Education recently sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Education asking for clarity or additional information on components of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan, before the plan can be adequately reviewed by the department. Following a phone call with department, prior to receiving the letter from the federal agency, MDE released this statement hoping to have everything finalized by the end of this month. CMF will share updates on next steps from MDE for our ESSA plan as they become available.

Summer is dwindling and in a few weeks Michigan students and teachers will head back to the classroom.

In Detroit, they’re scrambling to fill more than 400 teacher positions. In communities across the country, both urban and rural, they’re dealing with teacher vacancies.

Bridge Magazine reports that “since 2008, the total number of Michigan college students studying to become a teacher is down more than 50 percent.”

We’re not in an official teacher shortage situation but the numbers are startling when it comes to the potential long-term effects on the teacher talent pipeline.

Bridge Magazine reports there’s not one exact reason that may be causing this decrease, but the magazine and experts point to a range of issues, including low pay, lack of support for teachers, lack of incentives and more pressure in the classroom.

Michigan Radio just rolled out a special four-part series highlighting how teachers are underpaid in Michigan, with their salaries trending downward for the fifth year in a row.

This school year, Michigan teachers will have a new retirement plan, a defined contribution plan in place of their current defined benefit pension plan, or an option for a costlier hybrid pension plan with more risk, a major change that opponents say will weaken efforts to attract and retain teachers when combined with salary trends and challenges for the profession.

As we collectively work to move our state from its current ranking of 41st in the country for education, we reflect upon how important it is, as research has shown, to invest in our teachers for a more equitable and successful education system.

How can we leverage programs to offer additional support to teachers? We’re taking a look at a couple programs underway to attract and keep teachers in our communities.

The Detroit Free Press reports the city announced its expanding an existing program to allow all Detroit teachers (public, private and charter) and school employees to get a 50 percent discount when purchasing a home in Detroit.

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent, Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) told the Free Press, “the program will help fill a mountain of vacant positions in the district.”

We’re seeing a similar housing, teacher incentive model used in Battle Creek, as the school district is offering down payment mortgage assistance for teachers, through support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

WWMT-TV reports that teachers moving into the city can receive $3,000 for down payment and up to $12,000 for rehabilitation assistance to repair aging homes.

"It's exciting and the exciting part is what we know the impact will be on the children that we serve. So this is more than just the teachers and educators it's about a full community and opportunity for economic development and educational attainment,” Kimberly Carter, superintendent, Battle Creek Public Schools told WWMT.

Programs are emerging across the country in cities to provide housing incentives or below market apartments for teachers, to attract, retain and ensure they have attainable housing in the community where they teach. It’s likely too early to know what the impact will be from these efforts.

It does however further demonstrate the need to find innovative solutions to attract and keep teachers and build a sustainable pipeline of future educators not just in rural or urban areas but in all communities across the country.






Could More People Receive MI Benefits Under New Model?

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is rolling out a pilot program in Muskegon County next month that will help inform the state about refining its new statewide model for Michiganders to access state benefits and services. The new model is expected to launch throughout Michigan in early 2018.

It’s all part of a multi-year project, MDHHS’ Integrated Service Delivery, to streamline the system for Michiganders who apply for benefits such as food assistance, child development and care, the Healthy Michigan plan, Medicaid and other critical services.

MDHHS reports that nearly 2.6 million people in Michigan receive state assistance for such programs.

MDHHS shared in a briefing with the Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) and CMF members this summer, the current system unintentionally creates barriers for those it serves, with a person facing an application process of 42 pages and more than 1,000 questions.

The department estimates as many as 75 percent of Michiganders seeking benefits were denied due to barriers in the complex application process.

That’s why the state, OFL, CMF and several of our members have been working to support this effort to integrate service delivery under the new model, which would make the process more user-friendly and timely, unlocking state-funded benefits for those in need.

The MDHHS worked with Civilla, a nonprofit organization, to create a more human-centered design for its application, calling it a person-centered approach, using a “holistic, proactive, and preventative approach focused on outcomes.”

MDHHS shares changes to streamline the system of delivery include:

  • The new application is shorter, reduced to 18 pages and about 200 questions, and visually designed to improve the customer experience.

  • The workforce within MDHHS is being reorganized. Instead of funneling everything through individual caseworkers they’re moving to universal caseload management, resulting in team-based expertise areas such as child benefits or food benefits. This will move cases to the appropriate people and get beneficiaries through the system more efficiently.

  • As part of universal caseload, incoming calls will be managed by a team that would have previously been answered by a single assigned caseworker in real time.

  • There is one phone number for everyone to use instead of several points of contact.

  • Community partner organizations will play a more significant role in helping residents access benefits and supports.

The more user-friendly, streamlined system is aimed at better serving Michiganders, potentially creating a path for more people to access state assistance and benefits. These changes will be implemented in several stages statewide starting in January 2018.






Grand Rapids Community Foundation awards grant for Good for Grand Rapids initiative

Content excerpted and adapted from a community foundation press release. Read the full release here.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently approved a grant of $250,000 to Local First Educational Foundation for its Good for Grand Rapids campaign.

Good for Grand Rapids inspires, equips and celebrates Grand Rapids companies that use their business to create high-quality jobs, stronger communities and a healthier Great Lakes region. It is designed to engage all companies in the discussion about how they can make a positive environmental and social impact while earning a profit, regardless of their size or industry. 

The goal of the grant is to increase the number of businesses having a positive impact on the community with regard to job creation, equitable employment practices and living wage jobs through the efforts of locally-owned companies.

“This project addresses community foundation priority issues around creating an inclusive economy through entrepreneurism, access to good jobs and racial equity,” Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation said. “It includes improved diversity and inclusion in local businesses, minority procurement policies and working with neighborhood businesses to hire residents.”

Good for Grand Rapids also encourages local companies to take Local First’s Quick Impact Assessment and learn how they can use their business as a force for good.


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