The Impact of Poverty in Michigan

PRE-PROPOSAL 1. Media Artifact

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Poverty in Michigan - Media Artifact Link

2. Persona and POV statement                                                                                                                         

Serena Jacobs

3. Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1: The government can provide teachings that will allow Serena to make well-informed financial decisions that in time, will pay off. Depending on her credit score, she can take out well priced loans in order to pay off short term obligations. With her income, she can then begin making safe debt investments that pay a modest yet compounding interest rate. This money will continuously grow at the risk free rate, allowing her to cover loan interest on top of receiving additional disposable income from the investment.

SOLUTION 2: Serena can use one of a few nationwide free tutoring services which were created to help lower income children succeed in school. To add, the Department of Education can further invest in supplemental tutoring services to aid children. By doing so, she will not only help her children achieve academic success in the short run, but will instill in them the importance of academics and learning. With this intense learning schedule, she can prepare her children to receive scholarships to the best of her ability on top of creating free time that can be filled with over time hours.

SOLUTION 3: The government can make information regarding daily saving fundamentals more accessible. This would allow Serena to fully analyze all costs that she faces in her life. Although this would be very difficult as she does not have much time on her hands, it could be very helpful. By identifying major costs, she can think critically about whether or not they are all absolutely necessary. By cutting costs, Serena would have more money to put aside into savings, that will hopefully accumulate.




Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Michigan Department of Education ESEA Flexibility Waiver Apporved by United States Department of Education July 19, 2012 - Impact Upon Supplemental Educational Services (SES). This allows schools to more freely allocate funding. Source: Michigan Department of Education

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal will impact the lives of students across Michigan as it provides more than merely a source of money that adds temporary value. Our proposal aims to allow lower income families to hopefully break the poverty cycle through enhanced education – a persistent effort that ideally, will grow from generation to generation.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Through interacting with teachers and students struggling with these issues, this reality came to our attention. At first, we intended on tackling a different segment of the income inequality issue, however, through consultations and research, we felt as though our efforts would be most impactful by pursuing education.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Our service activity has influenced our proposal by enhancing our perspective on the issue, as well as providing a new lens through which we can view the problem. Working with Food Gatherers, we have seen first-hand how some families in Michigan struggle with basic necessities, making it nearly impossible to consider anything else but the present. In other words, Food Gatherershas shown us real world examples of the extent to which poverty is cyclical, and the reason so many Americans struggle to break the cycle. This was deeply influential in impacting our proposal because it pushed us to attack poverty at its foundation rather than heal its symptoms.  After thorough research, we agreed that there would be no better place to start than the educational system, and from there we began to craft our proposal. 

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Media Artifact


Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: John Reimers, a high school teacher with experience teaching in lower income areas with higher dropout rates. Reimers supported the idea of having state-sponsored tutoring. He noted that from personal experience, he believes the most common reason for a student to drop out is feeling like their work at school does not have a purpose. He went on to say that this starts with a student falling behind and therefore not fully understanding the benefits from learning the material.

CONSULTATION 2: Anonymous. This is a University of Michigan student who almost dropped out of high school with failing grades before making a major life adjustment, going to Washtenaw Community College, and transferring to UofM where he now majors in the School of Information. This student said that he believes our proposal could be helpful to many, but that it would not have helped him. This student believes that we would be wiser to focus our proposal on raising the quality of teaching in Michigan high schools. It was his high school English teacher who convinced him to not drop out, and became a mentor to him – eventually helping him graduate and end up at UofM.

CONSULTATION 3: Lawrence Weinberg, Boston University professor with experience in social work and poverty as it relates to education. Weinberg also gave verbal support for our proposal, but was skeptical of our ability to convince legislators for funding. He cited a large number of cases he has seen where state legislators, for reasons he noted were "inconceivable," did not grant funding to schools in communities where it was most needed. However, he admitted he had not heard anyone offer tutoring services within public school. Lawrence spoke similarly to Reimers, saying that from his personal observations working in the field, students who dropout almost always cite the fact that their attendance and graduation will not contribute to their future success. He says that the key to reducing dropout rates in communities where poverty is rampant is in showing students at such schools just how many more options a high school diploma gives them.

CONSULTATION 4: Reached out to Achieve Learning, a non-profit tutoring company "committed first and foremost to providing the very best quality in education to ensure that the students in our community are able to compete at the highest levels of academic excellence." Although brief, we received a response that supported our idea in theory, with concerns regarding how it can be implemented in practice.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

By meeting with Michael Fahy to discuss our proposal and potential implications, we gained a lot of insight regarding overall direction and how to properly execute. Mr. Fahy advised us to find out if other states or countries have implemented a similar policy and to use this as a foundation for our proposal. Through analyzing the articles and information that Mr. Fahy sent our way in a follow-up email, we were able to better target our intended objective.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Our proposal’s research process has been both extremely interesting and rewarding. We originally identified the problem of poverty in the Michigan community and from there, dove deeper to discover how exactly we could make a difference. Originally, we brainstormed providing lower income families with superior financial management knowledge that would allow money to compound and grow. Through research and talking to our consultants, we learned quickly that this solution was not feasible as the people we are attempting to aid often has no disposable income to put aside. From that point, we began considering the educational aspect. We pondered the poverty cycle as a whole and began thinking of ways to break it. We came up with using enhanced education as a solution. By speaking to both high school and university teachers, we gained valuable insight into what the issue looks like from the educator’s perspective. To add, we then reached out to a student who experienced first-hand some of the hardships we discuss in our proposal. With the angle of the teachers, the students, and various organizations, we were able to get a complete picture of the issue at hand and feel confident about our proposal. The entirety of the process was also aided by referencing current Michigan legislation that served as an integral back-bone to this process.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Both Shayne and Ben made equal and thorough contributions to the final proposal. Much of the work was a team effort, the result of hours of meetings to discuss and refine research, and other aspects were more individual contributions. Ben spearheaded the research efforts, discovering similar laws and digging in to how this proposal could be funded. Shayne refined all language, fleshed-out the initial concept into what it is now, identified useful consultants and put forth the original solutions. Overall, this proposal has largely been a true group effort.


The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... Michigan has 15% poverty rate (above national average)

WHEREAS.... Michigan's child poverty rate has consistently been above national average

WHEREAS.... 70% of surveyed public school teachers reported seeing class sizes rise and teacher to student ratios fall

WHEREAS....Michigan has a graduation rate that is 8% below the national average

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).


1. Develop “Adequacy and Equity” plans describing how the Board of education will remedy disparities in educational tools, services, opportunities, and resources among districts and schools as part of their applications for funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This process will be overseen by individual school boards (allocating tutors, scheduling, etc.)

2. Using student assessment results to identify policies and programs that will improve learning by tailoring services to where there seems to be need.

3. Create a fund for the purpose of paying for tutoring services for underprivileged, underperforming students, allowing them to benefit from specialized attention and alter their current direction.


What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. This proposal will be too expensive and Michigan's already tight budget does not have the capability to fund such a project.

2. Lawmakers need to focus on creating jobs and helping lower income families before looking at schools.

3. Michigan's school system is only poor in a few districts and is reasonably adequate in a majority of areas, why allocate funds to helping just a few districts?

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

The main cost of our program would be the salary of the program's tutors.  The cost of supplies, teaching materials, and classroom space would be very minimal given the fact these programs could occur at elementary, middle, and high schools after school is over. In other words, the infrastructure, in a broad sense, already exists. While the most obvious method of funding our proposal is to raise income taxes (which happens to be a highly feasible method of funding given the fact that even if the tax were applied to only the top 5% of earners in the state, it would still represent a very small percentage increase), we believe there are a number of other potential ways to fund the program. One potential solution to the problem is by passing legislation that requires graduate students and potentially undergraduates at the state's public institutions who receive merit scholarships to participate in the program as volunteer tutors. Not only is this fair to the tutors given the fact they are receiving massive amounts of funding from the state to study, but it would also provide younger students with access to a large pool of high quality tutors. This plan would require legislators working with college administrations across the state, which could be seen as an opportunity cost. By making tutors accessible via this method, at-risk students receive high-end tutors, as ensured by their merit-based scholarships, while the tutors are benefiting from state money to study.




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Total votes: 29