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Report: Wisconsin Is Failing Its Children of Color

A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report suggests ways states like Wisconsin can improve conditions for children of color and immigrant families. (AECF)
A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report suggests ways states like Wisconsin can improve conditions for children of color and immigrant families. (AECF)
October 24, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – A just-released report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows the gap between the well-being of Wisconsin's white and African American children is the largest in the nation. It says Wisconsin's Hispanic, American Indian, and Hmong children also face significant challenges.

The Badger State is home to 143,000 children in immigrant families.

Ken Taylor, executive director of the group Kids Forward, points out that 90 percent of immigrant children in Wisconsin are U.S. citizens, but more than half their families are financially insecure.

"If Wisconsinites really understood the depth and breadth of this challenge, we'd be doing more about it," he says. "Job one is to help people understand that A, this exists; B, that there are things that we can do about it; and C, we need everyone to act."

Taylor says the state minimum wage should be increased, that greater investment is needed in public education and that policies are needed to help support the success of immigrant families.

Laura Speer, the associate director of policy reform and advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compiled the report. She says they found in all states, African-American children face some of the greatest barriers to success, particularly in the South and Midwest.

"Kids of color especially are often disadvantaged based on where they live," she notes. "That means that the schools that they can attend are often less well-resourced and they're less likely to be plugged into some of the things that can really make a difference, in terms of children's long-term development."

Taylor adds some lawmakers have made it a priority to roll back programs and policies that offer greater opportunity for children and families. He points out that in Wisconsin, only 64 percent of African-American students graduate from high school on time, and says the state is moving in the wrong direction.

"We've had huge divestments in education at all levels," he laments. "From the early learning sphere, significant cuts there. From K-12, significant cuts. From UW, significant cuts. That's not a way to grow our economy and support the well-being of kids and families."

He says for children and families to be successful, it takes high-quality education, family-wage jobs, and targeted support for working parents.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI