Schmudget Blog
Showing blog entries tagged as: Equity


New Research Brief: Early Learning Improves Kindergarten Readiness and Reduces Disparities for Kids of Color

Posted by Jennifer Tran at Apr 04, 2017 01:00 PM |
Filed under: Kids Count, Education, Equity

We all have a stake in making sure that from the day they’re born, kids can have the enriching experiences they need to get off to a great start in life. Quality early learning can give children the tools they need to thrive academically and emotionally throughout their entire lives. 

This new KIDS COUNT in Washington research brief demonstrates why legislators need to make greater investments in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – our state’s preschool program that serves children from families living in poverty. Expanding this program to ensure all eligible kids can participate could help more of Washington’s kids show up to kindergarten ready to learn. It could especially help many children of color who haven’t had equal access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness.

ECEAP, which serves families with incomes below 110 percent of the federal poverty line ($26,730 for a family of four in 2017), offers many of our state’s most vulnerable children quality early-childhood learning experiences. It has a proven record of improving kindergarten readiness and impacting their long-term academic success. Yet because of inadequate state investments in this program, there are currently about 23,000 unserved children eligible for ECEAP in Washington, 62 percent of whom we estimate are children of color.

KIDS COUNT in Washington, which is a partnership between the Budget & Policy Center and the Children’s Alliance, examined how expanding ECEAP to serve the 23,000 unserved eligible children could impact readiness for kindergarten across the state and help bridge disparities in access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness. Our analysis concluded:

  • Kindergarten readiness in Washington overall could increase by 20 percent (to 56 percent from 47 percent);
  • 7,900 more children could be ready for kindergarten on all six indicators of readiness (1) by the end of their year in ECEAP; and
  • The share of Latino, American Indian, and Black children ready for kindergarten could have the largest increases (See chart for more details).

(Click on graphic for enlarged image)

ECEAP K-Readiness

The Washington State Department of Early Learning has set a goal of ensuring that, by 2020, 90 percent of Washington children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, with race and family income no longer a predictor of kindergarten readiness. A key to delivering on that promise is to make sure all eligible children have access to ECEAP. 

See our full research brief for more information on how expanding ECEAP could improve kindergarten readiness for all kids in Washington state and help bridge disparities for kids of color.


For more detailed technical information on our analysis, please contact jennifert@budgetandpolicy.org for a copy of our Data and Methods document.

1. The six indicators of readiness refer to an assessment by educators and teachers to measure kindergarten readiness on six developmental domains: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. See the full brief for more information on how the indicators are measured.

New Fact Sheet: Advancing Racial Equity through the Working Families Tax Rebate

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Apr 03, 2017 02:50 PM |
By Asha Bellduboset, Narver fellow
 
It’s time for Washington state to have an equitable tax code. Currently, it disproportionately relies on people with low incomes while giving the wealthiest people tax breaks. That’s just upside down. What’s more, those most heavily burdened by our upside-down tax code are people with low incomes, many of whom are people of color. The Working Families Tax Rebate (WFTR) is an important tool to help turn our tax code right-side up and to help undo the systemic inequities that have created an uneven playing field for people of color.

The Washington state legislature enacted the WFTR in 2008, but it was never funded. It is one of the most effective ways Washington can work to correct our state’s reliance on regressive sales taxes that overburden lower-income families. The rebate uses the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, a powerful anti-poverty tool, as a basis for eligibility. The WFTR would provide qualifying low-wage workers with an annual boost to their income in the form of a tax credit.

Funding the WFTR would advance racial equity by supporting the economic security of Washingtonians of color who are working in low-wage jobs. Our new WFTR fact sheet shows how the WFTR would benefit families in all of Washington’s 39 counties from all racial backgrounds. For example, our analysis shows that, if the WFTR were funded:

Recipients would invest $98.5 million back into local economies throughout Washington state, nearly half (49 percent) of which would go to communities of color

The rebate would improve the lives of many children of color, given that 51 percent of qualifying children in EITC-eligible households are children of color

Approximately 498,000 Washingtonians in all 39 counties of the state would be eligible for the WFTR, which means residents in all counties would see some economic gain. 

[Click on image to see full PDF that includes this graphic] 

WFTR Advances Equity One-Pager

Take a look at our fact sheet for more information on how the Working Families Tax Rebate would advance equity for our state and its people. 

Senate Republicans' Plan Doesn't Amply Fund Schools, Puts Other Programs at Risk

The Senate Republicans' new plan to fund K-12 public schools continues to work within a framework that doesn’t raise additional revenue – a strategy that has proven ineffective at serving Washington's kids and that could force cuts to other important investments. To pay for the basics, including keeping excellent teachers and staff in our public schools, the legislature must inject more resources into schools than they have in recent years. Any plan to improve our schools must include additional new revenue, as well as a strong focus on equity, sustainability, and adequacy.

The Senate’s plan, called the Education Equality Act, features as its major funding source a new Local Effort Levy – basically, an increase to the statewide property tax of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. As details about the plan emerge, however, it appears that the plan does not actually raise additional dollars for schools. That’s because the proposed statewide property tax increase is coupled with cuts to local property tax levies that currently fund a significant portion of basic education costs. As we’ve said in the past, levy swaps like this are schemes that change the source of the money flowing to schools but don’t actually make new investments in Washington’s kids.

As it is structured, the plan could deepen the shortfall in school funding because the plan does not pay for itself. It leaves a $1.4 billion hole in the 2019-2021 budget, for which its authors have yet to identify a source of funding. Promising to pay for education without identifying a funding source is a prescription for damaging cuts throughout the rest of the budget. And while the plan would dedicate future revenue growth to funding basic education, it would use any revenue growth in addition to the dedicated funds to decrease the new Local Effort Levy to a rate of $1.25. In short, the proposal is not only short on revenue now, but it is also designed to restrict revenue growth for schools and other public investments in the future.  

There is certainly promise in raising additional school revenue through property tax reforms, as we have proposed. The Senate's plan would effectively nearly double the current state property tax rate. And it exempts the Local Effort Levy from the damaging 1 percent property tax levy growth limit, which is a positive step toward making the tax code more sustainable. But this plan should go further and get rid of the 1 percent levy growth limit altogether to allow property tax revenue to better keep up with the needs of our schools.

In addition, any reforms to the property tax should also include steps to fix our inequitable, upside-down tax code – in which Washingtonians with the lowest incomes pay seven times what the richest 1 percent pay in taxes as a share of income. The Senate's plan aims to more evenly distribute the tax code so that homeowners in every school district pay the same property tax rate, regardless of property values. But that doesn’t do enough to protect the thousands of lower- and middle-income homeowners and renters who would see higher property tax bills under the Senate proposal. The proposal should include a property tax safeguard rebate to ensure that property tax increases do not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of families who can’t afford it, no matter what part of the state they call home.

To learn more about the Senate Republicans' school funding plan, join our fiscal policy team for a Budget Beat webinar this Friday, February 3, at noon. And stay tuned for further analysis when more details about the fiscal impact of the plan become available. 

 

The Future We Want: The Washington State Budget & Policy Center Announces Our 2017-2019 Legislative Agenda

Great schools, strong communities, healthy families: these are the things Washingtonians care about. Everyone wants this to be a state where kids can meet their full potential, where everyone can breathe clean air and drink clean water, and where everyone can succeed.

In the face of big changes on the national landscape, now more than ever it is important that state policymakers work to ensure the future of Washington as a place where all people can lead safe, happy, and healthy lives. The decisions they make now will influence the well-being of people in Washington for years to come.

How do we create a better future for our state? The Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s 2017-2019 Legislative Agenda offers a framework for how policymakers can ensure that every child, every family, every individual, and every community in our state can thrive.

Starting in January, state policymakers must take action to deliver a world-class basic education to every child. This will require cleaning up the tax code and avoiding distractions that take attention away from efforts to make sure every kid in Washington state has access to great schools. It is imperative that policymakers accomplish this task while also dedicating resources to priorities that make Washington a great place to live, from early learning to long-term care, from school breakfast for kids to night classes for their parents.

We know that basic education will dominate the conversation this legislative session. We also know that kids can’t succeed if their parents are struggling to meet their basic needs, if their neighborhoods aren’t safe, and if their communities aren’t healthy. That is why our Legislative Agenda is focused on building a better Washington through the six key areas laid out in our Progress Index: world-class education; economic security, healthy people and environment; community development and trust; good jobs; and revenue. The recommendations within our agenda also aim to promote policies that advance racial equity. The Budget & Policy Center Legislative Agenda offers specific recommendations for how lawmakers can:

  • Build economic security by addressing intergenerational poverty, strengthening support for families, and making sure everyone can afford a roof over their head and food on the table.
  • Create a world-class education system that provides kids with high-quality teachers, gives them a great start through early learning, and offers equitable access to higher education.
  • Ensure everyone has access to affordable health care, as well as mental health and public health services; make sure that everyone lives in an environment with clean air, water, and land.
  • Develop strong communities and racial equity while addressing barriers to re-entry and ensuring access to civil legal assistance; ensure that there’s greater transparency about our state’s tax breaks.
  • Promote great jobs that stimulate economic growth and development, and advance opportunities for all workers to have paid time off to be with their families.
  • Clean up the state’s tax code so that our state has the resources it needs to support a high quality of life for everyone.

Throughout the legislative session, which begins January 9, and beyond, the Budget & Policy Center will work with partner organizations, community leaders, and grassroots advocates to advance the priorities laid out in this agenda. Our research and analysis will continue to show policymakers why it is critical to invest in the progress of our state and its people – especially in the face of proposed federal policies that threaten to move us backward rather than forward. 


Census Data Highlights Disparities in Economic Well-Being for Children of Color

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Sep 28, 2016 04:25 PM |
by David Hlebain, interim policy analyst
 

While 2016 U.S. Census data shows an overall slight decline in Washington residents living below the poverty line, a closer look at the numbers demonstrates persistent economic challenges of households and families with low incomes. Kids, especially children of color, are most likely to grow up in households with low incomes. 

Check out our new infographic, “A Look at the Economic Well-Being of Washingtonians with Low Incomes,” for additional Washington state data. 

Click here or on graphic to see to full PDF.

Economic Insecurity Census Graphic 2016

A closer look at the data shows that in Washington state:

  • One in 17 residents (nearly 6 percent) live in deep poverty, defined as 50 percent of the federal poverty line (a $10,080 annual income for a family of three).
  • Nearly two in five kids (more than 37 percent) live in households with low incomes, defined as 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($40,320 for a family of three). 
  • Economic disparities persist for kids of color. Sixty-six percent of Latino children, 57 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children, and 57 percent of Black children live in households with low incomes.

Poverty can impede kids’ success in school, their overall health, and the stability of their family. This data underscores the importance of investing in policies to ensure that all of Washington’s kids and families can thrive. 

 

Raising the Minimum Wage Is an Investment in Washington’s Kids

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Sep 14, 2016 03:25 PM |
By David Hlebain, interim policy analyst

In Washington state, a single parent with two kids working full-time at a minimum wage job has an income below the federal poverty level and far below what’s needed to meet the rising costs of basic necessities. (1) Raising the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 through Initiative 1433* on the November ballot will help change this and is an important step toward ensuring that all of Washington’s kids and families have the opportunity to thrive. 

A higher wage would help reduce poverty – something that is desperately needed right now. Child poverty in Washington increased nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2014, with an additional 59,000 children growing up poor, according to KIDS COUNT. Even more troubling, only 31 percent of Black children, 31 percent of Latino children, and 26 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children live in economically secure households (which is defined as 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or a $40,320 income for a family of three). 

Raising the minimum wage to $13.50 would improve the lives of these struggling Washington families. More than 360,000 Washington kids currently live in families where one or more parents make less than $13.50 per hour. (2) The proposed minimum wage increase would make a big difference for these families, providing an additional $700 per month for the average worker to help make ends meet. 

Further, raising the wage would increase the incomes of tens of thousands of families of color who are disproportionately likely to struggle economically as a result of historically racist policies that have excluded them from opportunities for jobs, education, homeownership, and more. 

By helping hundreds of thousands of Washington families lift themselves out of poverty, a $13.50 minimum wage would strengthen the economic and social well-being of Washington’s kids and families in three key ways:

Helping Kids Do Better In School

Children who experience instability at home because of poverty have a harder time concentrating at school. This can undermine children’s progress in the earliest stages of their education by impeding their cognitive, social, and emotional development. In fact, research demonstrates a significant gap in kindergarten readiness between children who grow up in poverty compared with kids from families with moderate and high incomes. 

If parents are earning higher wages, they have a greater ability to feed their family, pay the bills and rent, and maybe even afford enriching activities for their kids. As a result, their children are more likely to thrive at school. 

Healthier Kids

The economic security of families is critical to the health of kids. The lack of a safe, economically stable home can create toxic levels of stress for parents and kids. In fact, high-stress events experienced in childhood – including sustained economic hardship – are linked to poor health later in life, such as obesity, alcoholism, and depression. 

Because higher wages allow parents to put food on the table, a higher minimum wage can also help combat childhood hunger. Currently, more than 13 percent of Washington kids go hungry because their parents can’t afford to buy enough food, and those rates are even higher among children of color. Additionally, minimum wage increases have been shown to correlate with fewer babies born at low birthweights, one of the earliest indicators of the health of the next generation.

Strong Families and Homes

As mentioned previously, parents living in poverty can have heightened stress levels if they’re worried about paying rent and bills each month or having trouble dealing with unexpected costs, such as car repairs. This stress can detract from the necessary time and mental capacity for parents to fully engage with – and develop strong attachments to – their kids. Compromised parenting influences children in both the short term and the long term. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to enter the child welfare system. And adversity experienced as kids can make transitioning to adulthood difficult.

Creating environments for kids to thrive requires policies that improve the well-being of parents and children. A higher wage for hardworking parents who make the minimum wage is a great investment in the strength of entire families and households.

The passage of Initiative 1433 would give more families the ability to improve their well-being. Indeed, it would allow more of Washington’s kids to have the chance to succeed in school, to have a healthy start in life, and to have their basic needs met. Raising the wage would help us build a better future for all of us. 

*Authors’ Note: The scope of this analysis focuses solely on the minimum wage component of Initiative 1433. The other component of I-1433, which provides sick and safe leave, also offers significant benefits to kids and families. For analysis on how a sick leave policy would strengthen the well-being of Washington’s families and communities, please see this recent press release published by Children’s Alliance and this report by the Economic Opportunity Institute. 

1. The 2016 federal poverty line for a family of three is $20,160. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s “Living Wage Calculator” estimates a single parent with two kids needs to earn $59,550 in order to cover costs of basic needs in Washington state. 

2. Economic Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey, Outgoing Rotation Group public use microdata 2014.

 

 

 

All Income Growth is Going to the Richest 1 Percent of Washingtonians

It’s time for policymakers in Washington state to take steps to reverse decades of widening economic disparities that threaten broad prosperity, now that it has again been shown that all income growth since 2009 continues to flow to the wealthiest Washingtonians.

An updated report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the richest 1 percent of households – those making over $388,000 a year – captured all of the new income generated in Washington state between 2009 and 2013 (see graph). By contrast, and in a stark reversal from past decades, average incomes among the remaining 99 percent of Washingtonians declined during this period, causing far too many hardworking families to fall even further behind.

2016-6_Top_1_Percent_Income_GrowthEPI

The richest 1 percent of Washingtonians didn’t always reap such an outsized share of income gains during periods of economic growth. Prior to 1980, the 99 percent typically captured at least 80 percent of all income gains during economic expansions.

Further, as the EPI report points out, it used to be considered outrageous for executives to receive multimillion dollar salaries and outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, as the vast majority of working people and families in Washington state continue to struggle, super-rich CEOs living here are doing better than ever. In fact, in 2015, the CEO of Washington state-based Expedia received the highest pay ($94.6 million) of any corporate chief executive in the county.

It has become abundantly clear in recent years that everyday Americans and Washingtonians are tired of the economic inequality that has become the norm. In our state, we need policies that help all communities thrive by strengthening employment and creating more living-wage jobs. We need to make sure our tax code doesn’t favor the wealthy and the politically connected over the common good.

In fact, our upside-down tax system – where Washingtonians with the lowest incomes pay seven times as much in state and local taxes as a share of their income than the richest 1 percent – makes it even harder for the 99 percent to get ahead.   

Building a stronger Washington economy requires greater economic equality and overall equity. Lawmakers must undo the systemic inequities that have created gaps in opportunity for many people of color to receive good jobs and living-wage salaries.

In Washington state:

  • Voters can help advance economic equality and close the opportunity gap if Initiative 1433, now gathering signatures, makes it on the November ballot and passes. It would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years, increasing the take-home pay for 730,000 people working across a range of sectors. It would also provide paid sick leave, so parents don’t lose wages when they need to take care of themselves or their children when they’re sick.
  • Lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session must pass the capital gains tax recently proposed by Governor Inslee and leaders in the State House, which has been endorsed by major papers and many community groups throughout our state. And they should use the revenue from capital gains to invest in education, health care, and other services that expand economic opportunities for everyone.

And as lawmakers work to craft policies that seek to provide economic opportunity to Washingtonians, they must be especially mindful that those policies empower those who have been most harmed by racism and other structural inequalities that fuel the rise in economic inequality.

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HIGHLIGHTS

Policy Summit You're InvitedSign Up and Save the Date!

We will host two Budget Matters policy summits this year – one in Spokane on October 31 (register now) and one in Seattle on December 6 (registration coming soon)! The Spokane summit, featuring Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, will focus on the impact of federal and state policy decisions on eastern Washington communities. The Seattle summit, featuring Glenn Harris of Race Forward, will examine what it would take to lift up everyone to advance progress in our state. Find out more.

Our Policy Priorities

Washington state should be a place where all our residents have strong communities, great schools, and the chance for a bright future. Our 2017-2019 Legislative Agenda outlines the priorities we are working to advance to build a better Washington.

Budget Beat!

Check out the Budget Beat webinars we hosted throughout the 2017 legislative session, including our most recent Budget Beat about federal budget proposals, featuring Louisa Warren of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on our YouTube channel

Testimonies in Olympia

To advance our legislative priorities, the Budget & Policy Center team was in the state capitol throughout session testifying on a wide range of bills. Watch our testimonies on TVW:
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