Our community wants Wayne kids to win
A Wayne Kids Win! ballot proposal didn’t move in 2020, but paves the way for future efforts
Our grant and changemaking strategies under the Opportunity Agenda for Detroit Children seek to drive change on three primary indicators: third-grade reading proficiency, meaningful high school graduation, and funding for Detroit’s afterschool system.
We selected these measures as they are critical to a child’s well-being and prospects, acknowledging that we alone cannot move these measures, but that together with a wide set of community partners, improvements can and must be made. Behind each of these child well-being indicators is a strong collection of individuals and organizations working tirelessly to support Detroit kids. Today, we pay gratitude to the champions of Detroit’s afterschool system.
The Skillman Foundation has a long history of investing in afterschool programs and building a strong, high-quality afterschool system in Detroit. This work centers on partnerships with afterschool providers, youth-serving agencies, and other funders, and on robust input from children, parents, and caregivers. It also involves a growing number of city, county, and corporate leaders.
Wayne Kids Win! seeks public funding for afterschool
A group of afterschool advocates came together last year as the Wayne County Afterschool Partnership to gather support for the critical role afterschool programs play in helping kids explore their sense of self and world in a safe environment, under the guidance of caring adults. It launched the Wayne Kids Win! proposal, a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort led by community stakeholders. Wayne Kids Win! set out to do something unprecedented—place a citizen-led initiative on the ballot for voter consideration. The ballot measure sought to create a public funding stream that would provide more than $40 million annually to benefit children and families who could greatly benefit from afterschool programming. Its proposed rate of 1 mill would cost the average Wayne County homeowner an estimated $35 per year, or less than $3 per month, to provide high-quality afterschool programs to thousands of Wayne County children who do not currently have access to them.
The Wayne Kids Win! proposal was successful in garnering community support, but not County Commission support, and ultimately did not land on a 2020 ballot. The following are points of progress and lessons learned by its organizers from the Wayne County Afterschool Partnership.
90,000 Signatures Collected
Wayne Kids Win! needed to collect at least 54,000 valid signatures from Wayne County residents for the petition to initiate legislation to be placed on the March 2020 ballot. Strong support for the effort resulted in over 90,000 signatures. However, though signatures were submitted on time to the Wayne County Clerk, new legislation required that all signatures be verified, rather than a sampling of signatures as in years past. This resulted in the Clerk’s Office inability to validate all signatures in time for placement on the March ballot.
County Commission Blocks Ballot Placement
Additionally during the signature validation process, the Wayne County Commission alleged deficiencies in the submission process, declaring the Wayne Kids Win! proposal eligible to be placed on the ballot. The Commission expressed wanting more control and oversight of the funds. However, because signatures had been validated by the Wayne County Clerk, the proposal was set to be placed on the November 2020 ballot, while the Wayne County Commission continued to fight its placement.
In July 2020, the Wayne County Commission filed litigation against the Wayne County Clerk, the Wayne County Election Commission, and Wayne Kids Win! to prevent the proposal from being placed on the November ballot. Wayne Kids Win!’s stance was the following:
The Wayne Kids Win! petition to initiate legislation was signed by more than 90,000 people and was certified by the Wayne County Clerk. Thus, the Wayne County Commission should let the people decide at the ballot box in November. Rather than blocking access to the ballot, the Wayne County Commission should let the people decide if they want to invest in afterschool and summer programs for the county’s children. Disenfranchising residents who signed the petition does a disservice to the taxpayers of Wayne County.
Blocking the proposal from reaching the ballot puts politics over children. Deploying the county’s legal team to block a citizen-led proposal from the ballot based on legal technicalities is a political power play that works against the county’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens.
A Wayne County Circuit Court judge issued a writ of mandamus that Wayne Kids Win! be removed from the November 2020 ballot, claiming deficiencies in the petition language. While the Wayne County Afterschool Partnership disagreed with the ruling, it made the difficult decision not to appeal, thus the proposal did not land on a 2020 ballot.
Wayne Kids Win! Looks Ahead
The Wayne County Afterschool Partnership is not retreating from its pursuit of a dedicated public funding stream to support afterschool programs for local children. It is considering the best course of action to take to accomplish its goals of increasing stable monetary support to ensure all Wayne County children who would like to participate in an afterschool program are able to do so. The work it has done to build a strong group of supporters and advocate for the importance of high-quality afterschool programs will continue.
The Skillman Foundation is grateful and encouraged to see a cross-section of community including elected officials, school groups, nonprofits, and community leaders come together to ensure all kids can take part in the character and skill development offered by afterschool programs. We are heartened to see more than 90,000 county residents affirm the importance of these programs and demonstrate willingness to personally invest in their community’s children.
Our Relentless Commitment
Access to afterschool programming is as critical as ever. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, children are and will continue to be in great need of the social, emotional, and academic supports afterschool programs provide. Parents also require this help to manage the demands of work, home, and at-home learning.
A dedicated public funding stream to support afterschool programs would allow for more children to be served, more impactfully. Areas of momentum that give us hope include:
- Detroit afterschool providers, the Youth Development Resource Commission, and the City of Detroit meet regularly to explore partnership and funding opportunities
- Funders are convening to continuously learn together in effort to best support the afterschool system
- New leaders at the Michigan After-School Partnership are seeking ways to secure state funding while building stronger partnerships
- The Youth Development Resource Commission continues to build advocacy to ensure afterschool providers are at the forefront, leading efforts to the case for their work on behalf of kids
- Youth and family advocates are serving as powerful champions for equitable access to afterschool programming.
The Skillman Foundation remains steadfast in our pursuit of increased funding for the afterschool system—including public and private dollars—from sources near and far from Detroit.