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New policies aim to make a difference for Michigan's kids.

Oct 7, 2014

Credit Greyloch / flickr

There have been a few recent developments that meet at the intersection of the Venn diagram made when State of Opportunity meets government affairs.

What matters is how likely these reforms are to make a difference for kids in Michigan. Here's some early stage analysis. 

We'll start with the law President Obama recently signed that hopes to break the connection between sex-trafficking and the foster care system. If you have any doubt about this connection, read this piece Brittany Bartkoviak recently wrote. The new law could help those young people most vulnerable to being trafficked, but it could also strengthen the connections all kids in foster care have to their communities and supportive adults. The only question is, with Michigan's foster care system still under court supervision for not keeping kids in its care safe, will new practices really take hold in the state? 

Next is an interesting letter the federal Department of Education recently sent to all states that shows they might be getting more serious about the racial achievement gap. The letter told states, in no uncertain terms, that to comply with civil rights laws states need to make sure students in schools primarily made up of kids of color have access to more equal educational resources. The feds aren't talking about school funding in this letter, and that's what makes it so interesting. They want districts to make sure there are not racial disparities in "courses, academic programs and extracurricular activities."

This letter is a shot across the bow. The Department of Education seems to be signaling it wants school districts to get serious about how resources are divided among schools, but federal lawmakers or the federal courts may also have a lot to say about this. The other reality is, in Michigan at least, school districts are already very segregated by race. Few districts would have the type of resource mismatch happening within them that the letter seeks to address. 

At the state level, Governor Synder started off the week by introducing an uncustomary issue to the campaign trail; dental care for low-income kids.

Snyder said he wants to see the Healthy Kids Dental program expanded to the last three counties in the state that don't yet have the program, and wants to put state budget dollars behind the expansion. Those counties are also the state's biggest, so it would mean adding around 400,000 kids to the program. Right now the likelihood the expansion will happen is still at "campaign promise" level.