The Common Ground Project believes in investing in Florida’s education system in order to optimize opportunity achievement for the next generations. Education needs to be discussed from early childhood education programs to the equal opportunity to affordably attend college or trade school. Access to quality early childhood education, well funded public schools, and affordable college or trades schools is critical to prepare our youth for learning, both in school and later in the workforce, and are vital to a state’s economic prosperity.
ECONOMY & JOBS
If current trends continue, Black families won’t amass the wealth White families enjoy today until 2241, while Latino families won’t amass the White family wealth until 2097. The Racial Wealth Equity Network is working to ensure these trends don’t continue. Join today to receive the latest information on programs and policies that strengthen financial security and access to opportunity for individuals, families and communities of color.
Early Childhood Education
The first years in a child’s life are critical to healthy brain development and future academic success. Research has shown that early childhood education significantly improves the scholastic success and educational achievements of poor children, even into early adulthood. Moreover, high-quality, targeted interventions such as preschool save money by preventing future expenses for remedial education, incarceration and cash assistance.
51.1% of Florida 3- and 4-year olds are enrolled in Pre-K.
Access to quality education is a cornerstone of an opportunity economy. Several studies link the benefits of early childhood education (before five) to increased social and economic mobility and even closing income inequality in the long-term. Pre-kindergarten programs prepare children for learning, both in school and later in the workforce, and are vital to a state’s economic prosperity.
States can require all school districts to offer pre-kindergarten programs that are universally available to all age-eligible children that wish to enroll. Several states that have this requirement, but restrict program eligibility to certain income qualified children.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recommends that since states may find it difficult to create new universal programs, “states can move toward a universal coverage gradually for example, by raising the income threshold over time or offering the universal program first in “high need” communities” or starting pre-kindergarten at age 4 instead of age 3.
Head Start Funding
Head Start is an educational program proven to prepare low-income children to begin school ready to learn. Although primarily federally funded, state Head Start programs often need additional funding to meet federal education standards. For example, the federal government requires Head Start programs to match 20% of the federal funds they receive. Without this match, state programs struggle to qualify for federal Head Start funds. State funding is often used to increase the number of students who can participate in Head Start.States can provide a supplemental Head Start grant to help programs meet the 20% match required by the federal government. In some cases, the funds are used for quality improvements, such as to extend hours or increase teacher pay.
Student Loan Debt
Many low- and middle-income students must take out student loans in order to afford postsecondary education, and in today’s economy, these loans can be a challenge to pay back. This is particularly the case for students who don’t complete their degree. Median student loan debt has increased by 21.4% between 2010 and 2017 (from $14,588 to $17,711) when other forms of debt were decreasing. As the debt of continues to trend upwards, the high student loan debt burden may limit the ability of some to invest in future assets, such as a home.
Borrowers in Florida
have a median of
in student loan debt.
ECONOMY & JOBS
Thousands of young people enter the workforce every week without basic money management skills, and the financial decisions they make when beginning their working lives can affect their financial success in the future. Developing healthy financial habits early on helps young people better access services and products that can help them save, invest and build credit. In 2015, Prosperity Now and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched the Youth Employment Success (YES) initiative to provide technical assistance to 24 municipalities.
We know that a job alone is not enough to put individuals on the path to financial security. But without a stable, well-paying job, it’s virtually impossible for most people to become financially secure. In 2015, Prosperity Now launched its first-ever fellowship to promote the integration of financial capability services into the workforce development field.
Race, Wealth, & Taxes
Last year, Congress had a tremendous opportunity with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to help low-income and middle-class families—particularly those of color—build the wealth needed to secure their share of the American Dream. Unfortunately, by spending the majority of the $1.9 trillion within this law to provide large tax breaks for the wealthy and multi-billion-dollar corporations, Congress chose to actively invest in policies that exacerbate economic inequality rather than mitigate it.
Even worse, in designing and enacting the 2017 tax law, Congress not only chose to grow the economic gap between rich and everyone else, but also between White households and households of color, thus further perpetuating a long history of systemic racism that undergrids government policies and American society at large.
A newly released report by Prosperity Now and the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy, Race, Wealth and Taxes: How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Supercharges the Racial Wealth Divide, finds that the TCJA not only adds unnecessary fuel to the growing problem of overall economic inequality, but also supercharges an already massive racial wealth divide to an alarming extent.
Using ITEP’s microsimulation model, which generates tax estimates for a sample of representative taxpayer records, this study provides the first quantitative analysis to examine the racial implications of the TCJA and how these tax cuts reward existing White wealth at the expense of the economic security of households of color, poor households and a stalling middle class.
Of the nearly $275 billion within the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2018, $200 billion (72%) goes to the top 20% of households (earning $110,000 or more). Instead of boosting the middle class and working Americans, this is a giveaway to the richest 20% of Americans.
Of the nearly $275 billion within the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2018, $218 billion (80%) goes to White households. On average, White households will receive $2,020 in cuts, while Latino households will receive $970 and Black households receive $840.
Because America’s wealthiest families are overwhelmingly White, it is inevitable that a tax cut geared to the very top would shower outsized benefits on White households relative to the overall population and households of color. For instance, while 1.2% of White families earn enough to place them among the top 1% percent of earners, just 0.4% of Latino and Black families are members of this group. Put another way, White families are three times more likely than Latino and Black families to be among the nation’s top earners. As a result, households of color are largely excluded from accessing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s benefits, leaving them with little support from one of our nation’s largest systems for improving the economic outcomes of American households.
More than 40% of all tax cuts from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act go to the White households in the top 5% of earners (with incomes of $243,000 or more), despite only representing 3.9% of all tax returns.
Regardless of race, middle-class households (earning between $40,000 and $110,000) receive $2.75 a day from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. White households in the top 1% of earners receive $143 a day.
While most low- and middle-income families are White, Black and Latino families are overrepresented in this group relative to their share of the national population. Taken together, Black and Latino households account for nearly 30% of the nation’s poorest families, despite comprising just 22% of the overall population. 74% percent of Black and Latino households fall in the bottom 60% of taxpayers with incomes of $65,000 or less. In contrast, just 56% of White households fall in the bottom 60%. The overrepresentation of households of color in the bottom income groups is a large reason why the overall average tax cuts for these taxpayers is substantially lower than those received by White households.
EQUALITY & MORE
"Florida is locking up too many people for too long. It’s burdening taxpayers, and it’s doing little to rehabilitate offenders or make communities safer. With a budget of $2.4 billion, Florida operates the third largest correctional system in the country. More than 96,000 Floridians are in state prisons and another 166,000 are under community supervision."
Criminal justice reform is an issue that has broad appeal. The bipartisan First Step Act just became law at the federal level, finally allowing judges discretion in sentencing for nonviolent drug offenses instead of compelling them to abide by mandatory minimum sentencing. The Florida First Step Act (SB 642/ HB 705) is a piece of legislation that aims to do the same thing in the Sunshine State, and it has support from legislators on both sides of the aisle.
"The [Violence Against Women] act has established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice, and myriad programs to train victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors and judges on gender-based violence. Since it was created, more than $7 billion in federal grants has been given to programs that prevent domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. It has also funded shelters, community programs and studies tracking violence against women."
This NY Times article is a great history of the Violence Against Women Act. Protecting women and girls from violence, abuse, and rape has bipartisan support, though there are disputes about the best way to provide these protections. The latest iteration of the bill recently passed the House and is being considered by the Senate.