Local data highlights kids’ needs
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a new data visualization tool that provides statistics of importance to school districts and surrounding communities.
The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates School District Profiles data visualization dashboard provides information on every school district in the state and nation, from large metropolitan districts with more than 1 million students to small rural districts with fewer than 100.
While the tool’s school data is from 2019 and predates the coronavirus pandemic, the data is still extremely valuable in helping inform crucial funding and policy decisions at the local, state and federal level.
The SAIPE schools data shows that child poverty has primarily declined in Michigan school districts since 2010.
But no percentage of children living in poverty should be considered an acceptable amount.
For 2019, the child poverty rate for Alpena Public Schools was 16.1%. The child poverty rates for that same year were 23.2% for Alcona Community Schools, 32.1% for Atlanta Community Schools, 19.8% for Hillman Community Schools, 19.1% for Onaway Area Community School District, and 20.6% for Rogers City Area Schools.
The 2019 child poverty rate for Posen Consolidated School District was 21.1%, a slight increase from 2010.
Child poverty is only one indicator to measure child and family economic wellbeing, but it is an important one.
And having that data by school district is particularly helpful as we look at public policies based on or connected with schools.
The data can help inform funding and investment in school meal and related summer meal programs. And, with the pandemic bringing to light the importance of technology and internet access, local data can also help inform decisions around individual school remote learning, as well as state and federal infrastructure investment and support.
Having child poverty data available by school district also reinforces some key state budget policy recommendations the League continues to make each year: greater investment in programs for at-risk kids and a true weighted school funding formula.
While the 2022 state budget made significant investments in our K-12 schools, the budget provided no significant increase in the At-Risk School Aid program, which provides state funds to schools serving students who are at risk of failing academically or are chronically absent. The At-Risk program has routinely been underfunded, and, despite increases in recent years, payments to schools continue to need to be prorated.
The 2022 budget did provide some additional funding for students with greater needs, but it did not implement a true weighted school funding formula.
State policymakers must recognize — and state education funding must respond to — the fact that students who live in poverty, who are English language learners, or who have disabilities or other special needs require additional resources to receive a high-quality education.
Finally, whether it’s by household or school district, any discussion of child poverty and policy needs must include the federal Build Back Better plan and the expanded Child Tax Credit.
Local school district data shows the need to address child poverty in Northeast Michigan and around the state and country. And the child tax credit remains one of the best policy tools to do that.
As negotiations on the Build Back Better plan continue, the Michigan League for Public Policy and our partners continue to advocate for expansion of the child tax credit, especially in making the credit permanently fully refundable without a work requirement so that the credit is not taken away from the kids and families with the lowest incomes.
Alex Rossman is external affairs director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.