Be like Mississippi

In a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Michigan has the third-lowest score for the overall well-being of black children, only slightly better than Mississippi and Wisconsin. Horrible!

In a Bridge column W.K. Kellogg Foundation CEO La June Montgomery Tabron writes:

The study is a wakeup call for us all and should serve as motivation to improve conditions for children and their families in communities throughout the state. Families must have access to essential resources that give our children a strong start for achieving success in their lives.

Research has shown that optimum child development starts with the mother. Having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to promote a healthy birth. That’s why it makes perfect sense to ensure that Michigan’s mothers are given access to quality health care so that all of Michigan’s children are on a path toward success before they can even take their first steps.

The new Kids Count data released last week also showed profound gaps in access to educational outcomes for African American children. … Our schools can improve the readiness of young children by making connections with local child care providers and preschools. At the same time, educators must be prepared to address the diverse needs of children and our families and as a community we all must be engaged and committed to securing the success of every child. But there must be rapid action to improve conditions, and ultimately, outcomes for children.

Conversely, it is hard for families to engage in their children’s learning if they are worried about paying their bills or attaining employment. In Michigan, nearly one in five black workers is unemployed – that’s more than twice the rate for white workers. Families need access to quality jobs and career programs that invest in their skills-building and training. We know children are more likely to become healthy and productive adults when their families are stable, so when we strengthen parents’ capacity to nurture their children, they are more likely to reach their full potential.

For years–particularly the past three–we have been disinvesting in health, education and the safety net. The ingredients that are essential for all–not just African American–kids to have an equal opportunity to realize the American Dream.

So it should not be a surprise that Michigan is ranked near the bottom of states with Mississippi. One can make a strong argument that we have made the policy choice to be like Mississippi.  In a post two years ago entitled Choosing to be Mississippi again we wrote:

The actions the Administration and Legislature have taken since they came to office in 2011 are far more consistent with competing with Mississippi and other low cost, but also low wage, states for 20th Century jobs and industries, rather than the high wage jobs of the 21st Century economy. Choosing to make the personal property tax cut the next big priority while choosing to continue a decade of cuts in spending on higher education and local governments’ ability to provide quality basic services and amenities further aligns state policy with Michigan 2.0 rather than Michigan 3.0.

Paul Hillegonds (a member of the Michigan Future, Inc. Board) in his must read GVSU The next 50 years in Michigan speech posed the right question: “We all would like Mississippi’s taxes and Minnesota’s social and economic infrastructure, but there is no state in the nation that has both. Which fiscal strategy will we choose?” …  As Paul continued: “What I know is that Michigan’s quality of life and prosperity will depend on a willingness to take risks, to change and think longer term than a short-term election or economic cycle. That change begins with the aspirations we hold for ourselves and our children—and the aspirations we hold for our state and regional communities. I also believe that the successful reinvention of Michigan regions will depend not only on our personal values and innovative private and non-profit sectors, but on public policy and the community investments we make.”

Exactly!

 

 

 

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.

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