Welcome to the final addition of the 2014 Graduate Michigan Action Network.  We will continue to use this network in 2015 to provide timely information on a variety of topics related to improving college and career readiness in Michigan.  If you have questions about any of the information provided, please contact me by responding to this message.

There will be a lot to do in 2015.  School finance and 3rd grade reading continue to be on the agenda.  Momentum is gathering for increased investments in expanded learning opportunities, supporting better integration of school and community services to support young people and encouraging better options to prevent truancy and the need for school discipline.  Young adults remain on the agenda, ensuring a smooth transition from foster care, more high school and college credentials and more successful career pathways.  To guide all of these priority areas, a two-generation approach is required, ensuring that parents and their children have opportunities to get ahead; as well as a framework of equity, requiring strategies that not only increase success, but close equity gaps in the process.  We look forward to working together! 
  1. ACT NOW:  We need your help to make more important policy gains in 2015.  Please take our short survey now.
  2. INFORMATION:  Road funding deal comes out of lame duck with much work to be done.
  3. INFORMATION:  What did 2014 tell us about what to expect in 2015 about increased youth voice and the challenges and opportunities in Washington, DC.
  4. INFORMATION:  Latest Speaking for Kids Blog Posts
ACT NOW:  We need your help to make more important policy gains in 2015.  
Michigan’s Children is taking some time to consider how to best enlist your help to ensure that public policies are made in the best interest of our children, youth and families. We want to better understand what motivates you to take policy action, and what information is helpful for that action.  If you haven't already, please take a few minutes to answer these questions to help us work better together in 2015.

INFORMATION: Road funding deal comes out of lame duck with much work to be done.

With their focus clearly on the need to address the lack of adequate funding for road and bridge improvements that has plagued the state for years, the Legislature did pass a series of bills that would invest significant tax dollars in transportation infrastructure for years to come.  For the initiative to move forward, however, voters will be asked to support a referendum in May 2015 to increase the state’s sales tax from 6% to 7%. Part of the deal included restoration of the state EITC, additional At-Risk funding for schools in the current budget year and a mandate to study the costs of education in Michigan.  Without that tax increase, however, funding for schools and other critical investments in children, youth and families remain at risk in 2015.  Learn more about the road funding deal that came out of lame duck in Matt's blog and from the House Fiscal Agency, and expect a lot more from Michigan's Children on this topic in 2015.

INFORMATION:  What 2014 tells us about 2015 -- increased opportunity for youth voice.

Because we've experienced the power of bringing the voices of youth to policymakers for almost 20 years, we weren't too surprised that our youth-led candidate forums this fall were so successful.  We brought together the innovative thinking of young people with candidates for office in contested races in four Michigan communities.  You can read more about those forums to learn who participated and some of what was said.  The winning candidates in those communities have committed to continuing the dialogue with young people over the next year, and we are glad to help facilitate that.  In addition, young people will be interviewing legislative leadership early in 2015 to determine how their priorities align with community concerns, and we have three local youth voice activities in the works already -- one in Oakland County, one in Northern Michigan and one in Ingham County.  If you are interested in facilitating more youth voice in public policymaking in your community, please send me an email, and we will make it happen. 

INFORMATION:  What 2014 tells us about 2015 -- challenges and opportunities in Washington, DC.

Despite its challenges, 2014 definitely brought some positive Congressional action:
CCDBG: Last month, President Obama signed the reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) into law.  The law is aimed at ensuring the health and safety of children in child care, facilitating families’ access to child care assistance, and improving the quality of child care for children.  This resource supports not only young children in care, but also expanded learning efforts in the state for school-aged kids. See our brief overview on what the CCDBG changes would mean for Michigan, as well as the National Women's Law Center's chart on changes to the law.  2015 brings more opportunity to strengthen Michigan's child care system through quality improvement efforts, possible tax credits and additional investments in expanded learning programs.  
H.R.4980:  Earlier this fall, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act became law.  This legislation, sponsored by former Michigan Congressman Dave Camp, has great potential to improve the way that we serve our most vulnerable children, youth and families in the child welfare and foster care systems.  See the First Focus analysis of the legislation and some of its implications.  2015 brings a new director of Michigan's Department of Human Services and the need to continue improvements for young people in the foster care system as well as increased investments for strengthening families.  It also brings an imperative to find more Congressional champion for these issues from our DC delegation.
WIOA:  The Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act was reauthorized in late 2014. This reauthorization included several significant provisions to increase comprehensive programming for out-of-school youth and those who face the greatest challenges to employment.  As always, the devil is in the details and implementation will have to be followed closely to make sure that Michigan is making the most of our resources.  Look for a new Issues piece from Michigan's Children about implementation decisions soon after the 1st of the year.
Cromnibus: Last week, Congress approved federal spending through September 30, 2015.  This bill, also called the “cromnibus” – a combination omnibus spending bill and continuous resolution, includes basically flat funding for many programs serving young people, including 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Community Schools and others. As we all know, our state budget depends significantly on federal resources, particularly for those investments that build equity and support children, youth and families.  Many federal budget proposals offered would have been much worse for Michigan, and 2015 brings a change in the U.S. Senate to more conservative leadership and another round of sequestration votes to come.
White House Priorities:  The President is definitely providing leadership on several fronts, including his consistent priority of early learning, and the new My Brother's Keeper initiative that has legs in several Michigan communities, including Detroit and Lansing, as well.
INFORMATION:  Latest Speaking for Kids Blog Posts
Recent posts include:
Potential Good News for Kids and Families in Road Solution
We Will Do Something About It, Together
Giving for Michigan’s Children
CCDBG Reauthorization a Huge Win
How to Improve Third Grade Reading? Think about Two-Generation Strategies

In 2015, we will be adjusting our outreach bulletins to best accommodate what we learn in the survey.  Please help us by taking the survey, or just feel free to email me with your thoughts and comments about how Michigan's Children can best assist you with your advocacy work.  Thanks for all that you do, and I wish you and your families a very happy holiday and a joyous new year.

Michele Corey
Vice President of Programs
517-485-3500 ext. 16

215 S. Washington Square, Suite 110
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 485-3500

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