A bill before the Legislature will create a task force to study Family Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI), a wage replacement program that Connecticut’s workers can access when they need time away from work to care for themselves during an illness, for a sick or aging loved one, or a new baby. HB #6553, “AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE TO STUDY FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE has been voted out of the Legislature’s Labor Committee and is now on the “GO list” for the House of Representatives.
We know that people are taking leave from work to deal with their own illness or because they are in a caregiving role to an aging parent, sick child or newborn. We also know that families cannot afford unpaid leaves and that many people actually call the Department of Labor in search of compensation while out on an unpaid medical leave.
However, before Connecticut creates an FMLI program, a thoughtful study and discussion must take place in order to understand how a program will be administered, who will be eligible, and how it will be paid for. The task force calls for the appointment of a diverse group of people, including representatives of large and small business, the insurance industry, advocates for individuals with chronic illness and caregiving responsibilities, and state departments and agencies to name a few charged with studying how Connecticut can make FMLI happen.
Anyone who would benefit or could benefit from FMLI is urged to visit the Connecticut FMLI Coalition's website and to contact their legislator. You can find information about the task force and how to contact your elected officials on the website.
People are always going to need to take time away from work, it’s a problem that isn’t going away. Elected officials need to hear that people are interested in FMLI and want the State to start planning.
CAHS will release the 2012 Kids Count data book April 30th at 1 pm in an event at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Join us!
The fourth grade Connecticut Mastery Test gives a good indication of where children stand academically on their reading, writing and mathematics skills. The Kids Count data book collects this information by town, allowing us both to compare how scores have evolved over the years and how towns compare to each other. The test scores are very relevant, as they give a good indication of long term academic success, and consequently, lifetime earnings.
First, the good news: Connecticut ranks amongst the highest states on our 4th grade test scores. The bad news, however, is that not all school districts share the good grades; the achievement gap between cities and suburbs is amongst the worst of the nation.
A couple of examples help illustrate this gap. 26% of Bridgeport fourth graders met the goals of the Mastery Test. Just across the city line, in Fairfiled, 67% of students did; 85% in Darien, 92% in New Canaan. In the city of Hartford only 29% met goals, compare to 78% in West Hartford or 85% in Simsbury.
On a positive note, the gap is closing, albeit very slowly.The state needs to do much more to close the achievement gap by 2020. It will take time, but at least we are on the right path.
We will release data points from the book and analysis in the coming days. The full report includes town by town data for several indicators, and will be available for download after the event.
Charles Kenny has a very smart article today in Bloomberg Business Week (of all places) talking about one of the main drivers of income inequality worldwide: sheer, pure, dumb luck.
First step in this "being lucky" ladder, of course, is who your parents are:
Take the importance of family. In the U.S., about 50 percent of variation of wealth and about 35 percent to 43 percent of variation in income of children can be explained by the relative wealth and income (PDF) of their parents, suggest economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis. One reason for this tight relationship is that parents who were educated are far more likely to educate their own kids (...).
Evan Soltas examined the General Social Survey data and concluded that if your father didn’t graduate high school, you are eight times more likely not to graduate high school yourself—a 22.2 percent chance, as compared to a 2.9 percent chance among kids whose fathers did graduate.
It doesn't stop there, however. One of the main sources of inequality is that some people happen to know the right people, and some don't:
The advantages of a privileged background don’t stop at graduation. Tufts economist Linda Loury suggests that half of all jobs in the U.S. are found through family, friends, or acquaintances. Canadian economists Miles Corak and Patrizio Piraino look at how often men end up working at the same company where their father worked, finding that as many as 40 percent have done that at some point. The proportion rises to 70 percent among the top 1 percent in income distribution.
Equal opportunity is a very nice concept in theory, but in order to get there it requires intensive, focused public investments. As we mentioned last week, the US and Connecticut has been doing a terrible job supporting these policies. The White House is very aware that policies like early care and education should be the cornerstone of any agenda in this regard, but Congress (or to be more precise, the Republican House) does not seem to be paying much attention.
Jonathan Cohn, at the New Republic, has an epic, 30,000 character article at The New Republic on the state of early care and education in America. His conclusion: we, as a county, are doing a terrible job at it.
American day care performs abysmally. A 2007 survey by the National Institute of Child Health Development deemed the majority of operations to be “fair” or “poor”—only 10 percent provided high-quality care. Experts recommend a ratio of one caregiver for every three infants between six and 18 months, but just one-third of children are in settings that meet that standard. Depending on the state, some providers may need only minimal or no training in safety, health, or child development. And because child care is so poorly paid, it doesn’t attract the highly skilled. In 2011, the median annual salary for a child care worker was $19,430, less than a parking lot attendant or a janitor. Marcy Whitebook, the director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California–Berkeley, told me, “We’ve got decades of research, and it suggests most child care and early childhood education in this country is mediocre at best.”
At the same time, day care is a bruising financial burden for many families—more expensive than rent in 22 states. In the priciest, Massachusetts, it costs an average family $15,000 a year to place an infant full-time in a licensed center. In California, the cost is equivalent to 40 percent of the median income for a single mother.
This is specially worrisome because, as Cohn has pointed out in another must read article, early care and education is by far the most powerful, effective tool we have to help low income kids succeed.
CAHS has long recognized how important these issues are, and we have advocated for better early care and education for years we will continue to do so as member of the Early Childhood Alliance.
Our work this year is specially relevant, as budget deficits endanger Connecticut´s investment in helping low income families have access to quality child care. Care 4 Kids, the state´s child care subsidies program, has been targeted for cuts. Currently, when a family’s income raised above 50% of State Median Income (SMI), their childcare subsidy is adjusted, and they can continue receiving Care4kids until they reach 75% of SMI. The Governor’ has proposed to close the program to families between 50 and 75% SMI, creating a sudden benefit cliff for these households. Due to the very high cost of child care in the state, these cuts can potentially drive working families to refuse pay raises or longer hours to avoid going over the income limit, as it will entail a net loss of take home income due to the sudden increase in child care payments. The governor´s plan, rather than saving money, puts these working families and their kids in a no-win situation.
The National Head Start Association is facing a dilemma and this may have serious consequences on the future of our children. Sequestration, which began on March 1st, 2013 is causing cuts for many areas of government spending. Spending that includes funding for Head Start and Early Head Start. These programs are facing budget cuts that will not allow children the opportunity to become successful in the future. Currently there are 70,000 at- risk children- we need to give them a voice.
If we do not fund the education of at risk children of poverty, then we are bound to face the consequences of this action in the future. An early education and a healthy childhood development all make a significant difference in the future lives of children.
One parent has made the following statement in regards to the cuts:
“Head start is crucial for children to develop the motor skills, independent behavior skills, communication skills and multiple learning comprehension skills needed to grow into grade school! If head start is gone, I'm afraid there will be A LOT of children being held back to take kindergarten a second time!! Head start should be taken seriously- as it is the foundation of a child's academic future!!”
One of the ways to end this sequestration and take action is the Stroll-In to Stop Sequestration. Families who benefit from Head Start participated in visits to the offices of their members of Congress to let them know how these cuts to Head Start will have an impact on their families and the economy. We hope you will do the same, by either emailing or calling your elected officials today. Find out how to contact your U.S. Senator or Representative at usa.gov!
With all the talk and worry about the state's dire fiscal situation one important discussion has gone unnoticed this month: the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula task force.
The ECS formula is one of those crucially forgotten but incredibly important portions of the state budget that is usually ignored in most debates. Following several court rulings that stated that funding education solely using property taxes did not guarantee equal access and opportunity to all students, the legislature was forced to step in providing assistance to municipalities. The initial promise, dating back to the seventies, was that the state would cover half of all education costs, distributing the money in a way that provided more resources to the poorest school districts. Decades later, the ECS formula is the latest incarnation of this promise. The big issue is, however, that the formula is broken beyond repair.
Truth is, Connecticut is actually not really even applying the ECS formula now.The state barely covers 40% of education budgets, and the money is distributed close to a completely random manner. CAHS has recently released a policy brief (PDF) delving on this subject, and explaining why fixing the ECS formula is a must if we want to close the achievement gap in the state.
Connecticut is exceptional in its overreliance on the property tax to fund public education. This tax is eminently regressive, as poorer towns with smaller tax bases are forced to charge higher mill rates than wealthier suburbs to offer the same services. This, paired with the higher educational needs in poor districts and a state cost sharing system that neither provides enough resources nor assigns them to the districts that need them the most makes the work of the task force vitally important for the state.
The task force will release its final report in the coming weeks, with a first draft on how money will be distributed to be made available in their next meeting.We will follow up with the details as soon as they become available.
1. According to the Every Child Matters Education Fund, 6 million Americans did not vote in 2008 because they didn't know how to register or missed the deadline. National Voter Registration Day, September 25, was created to make sure no American is left out in 2012. Click here for information about how to plan events and use the effort to increase turnout and voter registration.
2. In Connecticut, fewer than 50% of those eligible to vote do so, according to Secretary of State Denise Merrill's first-ever Civic Health Index.
3. Why does it matter? Our colleague Orlando Rodriguez at Connecticut Voices for Children blogged yesterday about a new National Bureau of Economic Research study showing that investing in children would return $2.6 billion to our economy.
The study found that "...the state could reap benefits equivalent to 1.28 percent of total disposable income (consumer spending) if families with children who live in poverty received additional support, as more of their children would reach the earnings capacity of the typical child. Furthermore, this increase would be 'in perpetuity,' which translates into more private sector jobs and additional tax revenues for state government -- forever."
How critical is this? We learned this week that Connecticut showed the fifth highest increase in child poverty in the country.
Vote, vote, vote!
Connecticut Voices for Children has released the "State of Working Connecticut 2012."
The gap between rich and poor continues to widen, the report finds, adding that the recovery has not helped minorities and young workers. Left unchecked, our economic trajectory "will leave our next generation worse off than the previous one."
Solutions include public support for high-quality universal preschool and community colleges and universities and investing in initiatives to fight poverty, raise wages and support families.
Median wages statewide fell for the second straight year -- but those earning wages above the 90th percentile saw their wages increase by 11% from 2006 to 2011. "Workers with wages below the 10th percentile saw their wages fall slightly over the same period," the report says, "by -0.2%."
- "Connecticut's black and Hispanic workers have not had a recovery." In 2011, the unemployment rate for black workers was 17.3% - for Hispanics, 17.8%.
- Connecticut's private sector is recovering faster than its public sector.
- Higher-paying manufacturing jobs are disappearing and being replaced by lower-paying jobs in healthcare, hotels and restaurants.
- Increasingly, a college education is required for a good job in Connecticut.
The report examines unemployment data, job sector data and wage data, analyzing the state as a whole and by race, gender, educational attainment, and by nine labor market areas.
CAHS and Connecticut Voices for Children are members of Better Choices for Connecticut, which advocates for a more progressive tax structure, including higher income taxes on the state's top earners and greater transparency and accountability for businesses.
US News publishes a list of America´s best universities every year. As any list of this kind it is at best an approximation of where each institutions stand;,ranking something as complex as a college education is not an easy task. The US News list often ends up full of extremely selective, dreadfully expensive higher education institutions that probably do a good job teaching their students but often remain inaccessible for the population at large.
For the past few years, the Washington Monthly has been publishing a different kind of college rankings. Instead of looking at excellence, they look at value: what universities give their students (and society at large) the best bang for the buck?
Why is this relevant? Their explanation:
Congressional hearings and calls for massive debt forgiveness marked a growing realization that higher education’s three-decade binge of tuition hikes—during which college prices tripled after inflation—has degraded the bargain society strikes with its young people. In the not-so-distant past, most undergraduates could rely on a combination of work and parental support to get a bachelor’s degree debt free. No longer. Today nearly two-thirds of undergraduates leave college with debt averaging more than $25,000. In more extreme cases, twenty-one-year-olds are burdened with six-figure obligations, in the worst job market in decades.
The Washington Monthly rankings are based on three factors. The first is social mobility, which gives colleges credit for enrolling many low-income students and helping them earn degrees. The second recognizes research production, particularly at schools whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. Third, we value a commitment to service. The more expensive college becomes, the more students are encouraged to see higher education as a mere return on investment. The students in our best colleges are taught by example and design to look beyond themselves and give back.
As the debate on how students pay for higher education, access to grants and equal opportunity heat up, this ranking provides a very good starting point.
The University of Connecticut, crown jewel of the state´s public education system, falls in a mediocre 66th place, behind Yale (41st). Wesleyan is 13th in the Liberal Arts list, way ahead of Connecticut College (77th) and Trinity (185th).
I know the headline is fairly obvious, but sometimes we need to repeat the obvious these days. A new study by Hilary W. Hoynes, Douglas L. Miller, and David Simon finds that something as simple as giving money to low income families has an immediate, clearly measurable effect in infant health. To be more precise, mothers that receive a tax credit through the EITC program give birth to healthier babies (PDF):
Using tax-reform induced variation in the federal EITC, we examine the impact of the credit on infant health outcomes. We find that increased EITC income reduces the incidence of low birth weight and increases mean birth weight. For single low education (<= 12 years) mothers, a policy-induced treatment on the treated increase of $1000 in EITC income is associated with 6.7 to 10.8% reduction in the low birth weight rate, with larger impacts for births to African American mothers. These impacts are evident with difference-in-difference models and event study analyses. Our results suggest that part of the mechanism for this improvement in birth outcomes is the result of more prenatal care and less negative health behaviors (smoking).
Families with more money in their pockets spend more in prenatal care, leading to less negative health behavior. Who would have thought.
The matter is, needy families are usually well aware on what they need; they just can´t afford it. It is always easy to pick specific cases of low income families being spectacularly irresponsible with their money, but more often than not when someone receives extra cash they will use it in a way that makes sense.