WSW: How To Improve Michigan's "Kids Count" Rankings

Dec 6, 2017

Children at a Day Care Center - file photo
Credit Grant Barrett / Wikimedia Commons

Alicia Guevara Warren says the budget reflects what’s important in the state. Guevara Warren, the Kids Count in Michigan Project Director for the Michigan League for Public Policy, says Michigan’s leaders have to decide what those priorities are.

The League has released a report on improving Michigan’s ranking in the annual Kids Count report. Michigan was 31st nationally, and last in the Midwest in the most recent assessment of child well-being. Guevara Warren says two areas - economic well being and education - bring the state’s average down. She says the state’s best category is health, and scores very well in the number children without health insurance.

The Michigan League for Public Policy’s report recommends expanding adult education and workforce development opportunities. Guevara Warren says the best way to help kids is to help their parents and guardians. She says that “two generation” approach includes offering things like child care, night options and financial aid for non-traditional students such as parents going back to school. The report also calls for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. Guevara Warren says that would allow low-income working families to keep more of what they earn.

In education, Guevara Warren says Michigan has done some things right, such as expanding state funded preschool for four year old children. But she says three year olds can also benefit, and home visitation programs would help children younger than three. Guevara Warren says the home visitation programs could also help address the state’s poor ranking for low birthweight babies and infant mortality, as well as big racial disparities in those categories.

Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 of states for children living in areas of concentrated poverty. Guevara Warren says those kids are exposed to higher crime rates and violence - what’s known as “toxic stress.” Guevara Warren says that affects development and can carry into adulthood.

The League’s report recommends increasing money for local government revenue sharing. Guevara says that can address education and health. Guevara Warren says the recommendations are interconnected. But she says they can be prioritized. Guevara Warren says addressing poverty is probably the most important thing to improve the well-being of children in Michigan.

Image from Wikimedia Commons