GREAT LAKES BEACON

Report: State Budget Must Address Racial Disparities

A new report shows that Michigan’s budget still does not do enough to address barriers to opportunity for the state’s children of color.

The report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, a nonpartisan organization promoting equal economic opportunity, analyzes its annual “Kids Count” report data against funding priorities in the state’s upcoming budget, and shows “historic and systemic state budget policies are creating significant disparities for people of color in Michigan.”

Some items to consider, the League said:

  • In Michigan, three of every four African-American students, and two-thirds of Latino students, are considered economically disadvantaged;
  • African-American children are eight-times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than white children, and 55 percent live in a home where no parent has full-time, year-round employment – more than double the percentage of non-Hispanic white children who can say the same;
  • Two of every three African-American children, and half of all Latino children, rely on public health insurance programs;
  • Only 10 percent of African-American students and 19 percent of Latino students met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college readiness in the 2015-16 school year; and
  • Ninety-one percent of the state’s teachers are white, making Michigan’s teaching workforce less diverse than the national average.

Considering these and other issues, the MLPP determined, “the 2018 budget missed out on some key areas of investment,” and that’s important if the state wants to ensure every child is afforded the same opportunities to succeed as the next.

“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 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.”

Legislators will not start taking up the fiscal year 2018-2019 budget until January, but when they do, the MLPP suggested 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.”

The state should also identify gaps in data about the impact of state spending on communities, families and children of color, as well as set up systems for collecting racial data and other information needed to direct the state’s resources where they are most needed, it said.

“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.”

 

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson