We have moved! (The blog, that is)

Just a quick heads up, in case the redirect for this page is not working – we have moved! The CAHS blog will now be hosted within the main CAHS website, here. Make sure to update your bookmarks so you don´t miss anything!

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Of parent education, kids, and starting points

We want all children to succeed in school. We all say that, but we know that achieving this is not easy – although Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country, disparities in test scores between towns and racial groups are by many measures the among the biggest in the country. We want to make sure that all kids, however, are able to thrive: if we want responsible, productive taxpayers down the road, it makes sense that everyone in our communities, parents, educators, schools, work together to do so.

Research shows that one of the main drivers in school achievement is the level of education of the parents. College-educated partents are more likely to read to them, encourage them to go to college, and help them with homework. The more educated they are, the more likely it is that their children will do well in school and graduate. For groups that are traditionally less educated, consequently, we have kids that start school with a build in disadvantage, even if their parents are fully committed to their children.

The obvious question, then, is which children are more likely to face this barrier. Sheryl Horowitz, here at CAHS, has used ACS data through IPUMS to anwer this with a graph:

Sherylgraph

The numbers are pretty clear – 66% of white parents in Connecticut have a post secondary credential; 27% African American and 32% Hispanic parents do so. These numbers can and do become a source of disparities in education.

We want all children to succeed, but not all children begin their education at the same place. As Connecticut moves to close the achievement gap, we need to include common sense measures aimed at helping both children and parents succeed. Our school and pre-K system needs to look beyond just children, and start thinking on both kids and parents.

Posted in Early Care and Education, Education, Numbers and data, State Policy | Tagged | 1 Comment

The decline of work

Thirty years ago, in the 1980s, close to 60% of the income of all Americans came from work. Today, this figure is barely over 50%. This numbers come from a wonderful study produced by Wells Fargo (you can find it here). Danielle Kurtzleben, at Vox, highlights this chart that explains were income is coming from now: Screen_shot_2014-06-03_at_10.36.01_am Surprised? Government transfers have increased its share five points, although the reason behind this is simple: demographics. There are many more Americans on social security now than 34 years ago, meaning that a higher share of income comes from the government, not from wages. This is part of a long term trend – and it is one of the few things that have contributed to the very modest rise in income for most Americans in the last few decades. Of course, this graph doesn´t tell us much about how income is being distributed, and how it compares to the returns of capital. We discussed this last month, talking about inequality – more here. Spoiler alert: it is not pretty.

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Update: Will Kids be Getting a “Strong Start”?

On Tuesday we shared news with you about an upcoming committee vote on the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act”, which was being considered in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee. We asked you to join us, and thousands of others on Twitter and Facebook, in asking our Senators to heed the research and invest in young kids.

preschool picture

Yesterday, the committee approved the Strong Start legislation with a vote of 12-10. There were two significant changes made to the legislation prior to voting.

  • First, the bill originally required teachers – in programs that receive funding – to hold a bachelor’s degree, with credentials that demonstrate competence in early education. The change, adopted yesterday, would provide teachers a three-year “grace period” to meet this requirement. This is considered a significant improvement over the original language, which provided no time period for compliance. However, advocates remain concerned that three years will not be enough time for teachers to meet this new mandate.
  • And second, new language allows both states and localities to be recipients of the bill’s preschool development grants. This language could be problematic as many states, including our own, are trying to build strong systems that reach children no matter where they reside. Money being provided directly to towns with the capacity to write strong applications could cause further fragmentation and inequity.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (commonly known as CLASP) has provided a more in-depth look into yesterday’s developments here.

The bill is now likely ready for a vote on the floor of the Senate. We will continue to track this legislation and provide updates as developments arise.

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We Support A “Strong Start” – And You Should Too!

Connecticut’s legislative season has drawn to a successful close, and so now we turn our attention to developments on the federal level. Today, we are watching the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee’s 2PM meeting to debate and amend the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act”. This legislation represents the possibility of a major new federal investment in early care and education; an opportunity Connecticut is well-positioned to take advantage of following the passage of the Office of Early Childhood legislation.

Some of the major components of the “Strong Start” proposal include:

  • Funding for Increased Access to Preschool for Four-Year Olds in Low-Income Families 

The legislation includes a new funding formula that would provide states with a share of $1.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2014 (increasing to almost $9 billion by 2018) for high-quality pre-kindergarten. States are asked to specifically target the money to assist four-year-olds in families with income below 200% of the federal poverty level. States would be asked to provide a modest match in the early years (10% in year one and two, then gradually increasing to 50% in year six), although at least part of that match can be accounted for from dollars already being expended for early education programs.  The legislation empowers state recipients to use the funding for sub-grants to local entities (both school districts and community providers) who are offering high-quality, full-day pre-k experiences. High quality is defined in the bill as a classroom with a teacher with bachelor’s degree, that uses developmentally appropriate curriculum, and that meets all health and safety standards.  Small portions of the funding would also be available for workforce development (including teacher scholarships) and for creating a more robust system of care for infants and toddlers.

  • Funding to Improve Both the Quality and Access to Infant and Toddler Care

The legislation contains $4 billion for the development of Early Head Start-child care partnerships. The goal of these arrangements is to improve infant and toddler care by linking the expertise found in Early Head Start programs with community providers already serving young children. The legislation also states a goal of having Early Head Start serve one in five children living at or below the poverty level; the program currently serves only one in 25.

  • Funding to Infuse Greater Quality into CCDBG (Care4Kids)

The legislation contains two very important updates to this 17-year-old grant program. The first is allocating $100 million to support child care training, licensure, and professional development for early care and education programs who receive CCDBG/Care4Kids funding. The language would also require that states switch to a one-year redetermination period for families found eligible for CCDBG/Care4Kids. Currently the redetermination period is set at 8 months in Connecticut for Care4Kids, though language that passed this legislative session would permit the return to a 6 six-month redetermination period. Frequent redetermination creates great uncertainty for both the families and the providers who rely on these childcare subsidies.

  • Language in Support of Continued Federal Funding for Voluntary, Evidence-Based Home Visitation Programs (though no actual funding is contained within the bill).

StrongStart_20140513

The Senate HELP Committee has organized a “twitter storm” for 2pm while its meeting is being held. This list of sample tweets has been provided to us by our partners at the National Women’s Law Center. We hope those of you with accounts on Facebook and Twitter will join us in showing your support! You can also watch live here – help.senate.gov.

 

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Kids, Low-Income Families Big Winners in 2014 Legislative Session

Wednesday evening marked the end of the very unpredictable 2014 Legislative Session, and Connecticut’s low-income children and families have much to celebrate! The past few months have seen an increase to the minimum wage, a partial Capitolrestoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and a major expansion of the state’s early childhood care and education programs. The budget also included a substantial increase in funding for remedial education at the state’s higher education institutions and protected resources that go to the state’s legal aid clinics – both investments being critical for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Below we have highlighted a few of the “good”, “bad” and “ugly” legislative developments. Our full breakdown of all the bills we had been watching that affect low-income children and families is available here.

The Good

  • Connecticut is First State to Raise the Minimum Wage to $10.10. Public Act 14-1 increases the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. This increase will directly help 140,000 workers, many of whom are women leading single parent families, move out of poverty. A higher minimum wages means greater financial stability for vulnerable parents and children, reduced need for government safety net programs, and higher earnings for students who are working to pay for college.
  • Budget Agreement Restores CT’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to 27.5% of the federal EITC. In 2012, Connecticut implemented a state EITC equal to 30% of the federal EITC. This was reduced in the last legislative session to 25% of the federal EITC for 2014. Despite late session concerns about the budget and available resources, the legislature restored the EITC to 27.5% for 2015, as called for in the biennial budget. Research shows that the EITC is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs that are directly targeted to low-income working families.
  • Full Establishment of the Office of Early Childhood. Governor Malloy created the Office of Early Childhood by Executive Order in 2013, to help ensure a strong and effective system of care and education for young children. Previously personnel and programs that made up the state’s early care and education “non-system” were scattered across five agencies – creating confusion and inconsistency. The legislature brought much needed stability by enacting HB 5562, which puts the Office of Early Childhood in law.

The Bad

  • Senate Fails to Pass Legislation Tackling the Issue of Chronic Absence. Both national and state-level research demonstrates that when children miss more than 10% of the school year, regardless of the reason, they fall behind and almost never catch up. Legislation that would define the problem of chronic absence, and provide school resources to help families with frequently absent children, was never called by the Senate after passing the House, 93-44.
  • “Pay It Forward” College Payment Study Does Not Garner Enough Support. A bill that would have the state study the feasibility of having students attend public universities for free, in exchange for a portion of future earnings, failed to be voted on the Senate before the close of session.

The Ugly

  • A Shaky Budget. After the legislature unveiled their budget on Saturday, critics expressed concerns with some of the measures used to balance it. Particularly troubling was a $75 million line item that relied on the collection of back taxes, with few details about how this funding would be recovered. While we applaud the legislature for its support for low-income families in this budget, it is equally important that we are honest about the state’s finances to ensure the CT is able to continue funding our safety net programs for years to come.
  • Remedial Education Reform Delayed. Connecticut approved an ambitious reform for remedial education in 2012. For the past two years, the Board of Regents has worked with state universities and community colleges to implement the changes. As some institutions have struggled to meet the fall 2014 deadline to fully roll out the reform, the legislature has decided to give the option to community colleges to delay its implementation until 2015. This may postpone some much needed changes in the system, but the legislation opens the door for those colleges that are ready to roll out the reform.

We want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your support through out this session — these successes would have been impossible without you! We look forward to building on this momentum, and to continue the fight for policies that allow all children and families thrive, regardless of income, in 2015.

Posted in CAHS News, Early Care and Education, Education, Fiscal policy, Inequality, State Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Background Research: the Rise of Income Inequality

Opportunity

If you had any chance of reading any mildly progressive magazine, blog or column in the past couple of weeks, you surely have heard of Thomas Piketty. His book, “Capital in the 21st Century” analyzes the rise of inequality in the developed world and its consequences.

The book deserves all the praise it is receiving (I am reading it right now); here are some links to reviews, articles and studies for those that want to read more on the subject:

  • Vox has an excellent overview of the book, with a great summary of its conclusions.
  • Tyler Cowen´s review of the book is excellent, and some of his objections are worth considering.
  • They also have published a long interview with Piketty that is well worth a read. He takes time to address some of Cowen´s objections, making it a great follow up read.
  • Another interview, this time with Chris Hayes (video).
  • Ironically, Piketty´s rock star status (the book is a best seller) partially validates one of the explanations of rising inequality: the superstar hypothesis.
  • Some comments of a parallel discussion on the effects of globalization and the rise of the robots. Yes, it is a real debate.
  • Illustrating the rise of income inequality, this NYT article about the fall of the American middle class is a must read – the graphs are fascinating.
  • Inequality has a devastating effect on social mobility – and the geographical distribution of income inequality has an even more pronounced effect. This study, paired with the very high levels of income segregation in Connecticut, should worry us.
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The Face of Adult Education

“Act as if what you say and what you do makes a difference, because it does.”

On April 3rd and 4th adult educators from all corners of Connecticut gathered in Mystic for the 2014 Connecticut Association of Adult and Continuing Education Conference.  (CAACE) In Connecticut approximately 11% of the population does not have high school equivalency. In addition, 7% of the population of our population is not proficient in English.  Adult Education programs address the educational needs of these learners, providing the expertise and support necessary to guide students toward their educational goals.                                                 

With the implementation of higher educational standards and Connecticut’s changing workforce needs, the importance of adult education as a bridge to success is becoming even more necessary. During the conference, conversations amongst educators centered around increasingly difficult educational standards, the revised and more challenging GED credential and the role of adult educators in transitioning students toward post-secondary education and workforce success. 

The highlight and most compelling portion of the conference was the student award ceremony.  This year four students were acknowledged as a 2014 Student of the Year.  For each of them, success was only realized by overcoming great obstacles:  This is the Face of Adult Education.

daneDane Scates from Stamford Adult Education “wowed” the audience with her strong rendition of the National Anthem.  Dane lost her mother as a teenager and battled debilitating asthma that eventually caused her to drop out of high school.  Years later, despite ongoing struggles Dane persevered and worked towards completing her High School Diploma.  Now looking forward, Dane states, “I want a career where I can make difference.  I have a mission and that is to create change for the better in our children’s lives, as they are our future.” 

Luz Santana moved to Holyoke luzMassachusetts when she was just fourteen years old.  Language barriers made it difficult for her to be successful in school.  Years later she moved to Connecticut and while working full time began ESL classes in West Hartford.  She not only progressed in her ESL classes, but also completed her high school requirements through the National External Diploma Program.  The NEDP allows working adults to complete their high school requirements through the completion of a personal educational portfolio. This route to high school completion is challenging and ultimately proves mastery of high school concepts and knowledge. Her positive attitude not only led her to success but inspired others to do the same.

Continue reading

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Tax Day Call to Action: Expand the EITC for Young, Childless Workers

On tax deadline day, we want to put a spotlight on a proposal contained in the President’s 2015 budget that would expand the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for lower-income, childless workers.

As quick background – the federal EITC is a fully refundable[i] tax credit that is targeted to support low- to moderate-income workers.  The credit becomes available to workers with their first dollar of earned income, peaks at certain predetermined amounts (which are based on marital status and family size), and phases out until it eventually reaches $0 for higher income earners.

The EITC has been routinely cited as a highly effective tax policy that both encourages and rewards work – and has seen support from both the left and right. Research shows that the credit produces major long term benefits for children that go well beyond a single tax year — this study finds that children in families who receive the EITC have higher test scores, fewer teen births, and live in better neighborhoods as adults.

However, the EITC falls short, and should do more, when it comes to supporting young and childless workers. Childless workers under age 25 are completely ineligible for the credit and the average credit for qualifying workers between 25 and 64 is less than one-tenth the average credit for families.

Yesterday the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities created an infographic that further demonstrates the problem with the current structure of the EITC:

BlNPB5wCQAA_edl.png large

The Center has found that childless workers are in fact the only group that are pushed further into poverty as a result of the federal tax code.

In his 2015 Budget, the President has proposed reducing the qualifying age to 21 and raising the credit amount available to childless workers (from a max of $500 to a max of $1,000). The President’s proposal also raises the phase out point for the EITC for these workers from $15,000 to $18,000. There are also several proposals before Congress that would expand the EITC beyond the changes proposed in the President’s budget — potentially creating even larger credits for these workers.

A change to the federal EITC could also bring a change to our state’s EITC — Connecticut is one of 21 states (there are total 26 states with a state EITC) that sets its tax credit as a percentage of what is offered on the federal level. We know that the combination of a state EITC with the federal credit helps bring an even larger number of families out of poverty.  We should be extending this same opportunity, at both levels, to our young and lower-skilled workers who we know are facing an extremely difficult time in this economy and in this job market.

We call on politicians in Washington to adopt these measures, and to provide much needed support to these working Americans.

 

[i] A fully refundable tax credit is one where a payment will be made by the IRS directly to the taxpayer in the event that the amount of the credit exceeds the individual’s income tax liability.

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Will the end of low wages bring higher prices?

Krissy Clark, from Marketplace, and Andrew Bouvé, from Slate, have a look at what would happen if Wal Mart raised wages to its workers enough to make it a living wage:


Their conclusion: not a whole lot. Wal Mart would have to raise the hourly wage for its salaried employees to $13.63/hour, for a total cost of $4.8 billion annually. This might sound like a lot of money, and it is, but Wal Mart had a $17 billion profit last year alone, and that´s after spending $15 billion on stock buybacks to make its shareholders happy.

Even without reducing its profits one dime, the reports find that the retail chain would only have to raise prices on its stores by 1.4% to cover the increase in wages.

The video is part of a wonderful series from Marketplace, “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp“, giving an in depth look on how companies like Wal Mart rely on public benefits both to make money and to pay workers low wages. Make sure to have a look.

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