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Study: Investing in education best route to stronger economy

Published 11:33am Thursday, August 22, 2013

The best way for Michigan to grow its economy is by investing in a well-educated workforce, according to a new paper published by EPI for the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN — a network of 61 state and local economic think tanks and 25 national partners founded by the Economic Policy Institute and several other state and national groups, including the Michigan League for Public Policy).

In “A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity,” Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and Peter Fisher, research director at the Iowa Policy Project, find a strong link between the educational attainment of state workforces and both productivity and median wages.

Expanding access to high-quality education will create more economic opportunity for Michigan’s residents and do more to strengthen Michigan’s overall economy than anything else.

Michigan has cut K-12 funding as well as support to the state’s 15 public universities, 28 community colleges and need-based financial aid based, though $65 million for the state’s Great Start program — offering preschool to 4-year-olds — was added for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

“This report is an excellent reminder that if we want Michigan to prosper again, we must invest in education,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“The new dollars for Great Start are putting us on that path again. For the good of us all, let’s work to keep up that momentum.”

According to the paper, ways to increase the educational attainment of Michigan’s population include: working to slow the growth of college tuition, increasing financial aid, investing in quality K-12 education and continuing to expand the preschool program.

Meanwhile, strategies such as cutting taxes to lure employers and capture private investments from other states are shortsighted, and promote a race to the bottom which undermines states’ ability to invest in and attract an educated workforce.

The paper finds no clear relationship between a state’s tax rates and its wages.

In 2011, Gov. Snyder and Michigan lawmakers cut the corporate tax rate by 80 percent, making it harder to find revenue to pay for education.

Michigan’s School Aid Fund is down 9 percent since 2000 in inflation-adjusted dollars and support for higher education has dropped by 25 percent since 2002.

The Michigan League for Public Policy is a nonpartisan, non-profit advocacy and research organization dedicated to economic opportunity for all.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, was created in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers.

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