How Will the Governor’s Budget Impact Early Care and Education?

WCCF has analyzed Governor Walker’s key budget proposals for early care, described in a two-page summary HERE 

Below are some highlights:

Increase in the Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy budget
The proposed child care subsidy budget includes an increase from the 2016-17 base of $8.5 million in year one and $27.5 million in year two.  Continue reading

Smart Investment: Success from Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program

Soon after very positive findings from North Carolina’s investments in quality early care and education were highlighted in a recent blog, http://www.wccf.org/north-carolina-early-childhood-investment-pays-off/, Michigan is getting major attention with its Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). The program is particularly focused on at-risk children, with solid results. Continue reading

What does the future hold for justice reform?

Predicting how the new administration under President Trump will view criminal and juvenile justice reform is risky, but concerns about a return to a “law and order” perspective are legitimate.  Based on comments President Trump made during the campaign, his continued refusal to accept the proven wrongful conviction of the Central Park Five, and noting who is at the table with him may signal a move away from what has been a growing bipartisan consensus that the “tough on crime” policies that have led to mass incarceration and outrageous racial disparities was a flawed, inefficient, and ineffective approach.  As state and local governments have moved towards school discipline reform, alternatives to incarceration, and restorative justice, juvenile and adult arrest rates have continued to fall.

Yet, there is evidence that President Trump leans toward the failed policies of yesteryear.  President Trump campaigned on “law and order,” in different ways, even in his inauguration speech in proclaiming that we need to stop the “American carnage” and that “crime and the gangs and the drugs have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”  To be sure, there are some troubling signs in some cases, but the rhetoric also failed to take note of decreasing crime rates every single year since 1994.

For justice reform advocates, waiting to see what might happen could be too late.  Continue reading

The Impact Poverty Has on Children, Families, and Communities

Many have said that you can judge a state or nation by the way they treat their children, and in Wisconsin, our values have historically led to society that supports our youngest citizens. But in the last few years, we haven’t been making the same investments in our future caretakers, doctors, and teachers. Our child poverty rates are still higher than they were before the Great Recession, and we have significant racial and ethnic disparities when it comes to income and wealth.

Our new KIDS COUNT report, “Increasing Economic Security for Every Wisconsin Family” draws attention to the impact poverty has on children and families and highlights a number of policies and programs that lawmakers could implement that would greatly reduce poverty. Not only are these the right measures to take to help all kids thrive, they will save the state money in the long-term by reducing reliance on social programs and increasing economic productivity.

The report outlines three critical components to ending childhood poverty:

  • Providing parents with pathways and support to earn family-supporting wages.
  • Providing children, especially poor children, with high quality early childhood education to ensure they are kindergarten ready.
  • Supporting parents so they can support and care for their children.

To create a vibrant and economically competitive future for Wisconsin, every child, every family, and every community must be given the opportunity to thrive. And with the state budget process approaching and with improved revenue projections, now is the perfect time to for lawmakers to show that children are a priority. While many politicians will eagerly affirm that they believe “our children are our future,” now is their chance to act like they mean it.

Chet Agni

Trends in Juvenile Justice at a Glance – Your County and the State

As issues swirl around in the media and in public discourse about juvenile justice—particularly around how the system handles some of the more serious youthful offenders—it is good to ground the discussion with some facts. The Juvenile Arrests in Wisconsin Fact Sheet is a simple way to check some of the major trends reported through 2015, including:

  • Juvenile arrests continue to go down—a long-term trend, highlighted by the decline since 2011—at the state level and across most counties
  • The decline has occurred in rural and urban counties and across racial groups
  • The vast majority of juvenile arrests are for non-violent offenses
  • There is quite a bit of variation in juvenile arrest rates across counties

We are encouraged by these trends and the importance of separating the facts from what may garner more attention in the media.  Now is an opportune time to return 17-year-olds to the juvenile system and to close our remaining large juvenile correctional facility and increase support for community-based interventions that are proving to be effective across the state.

For a more comprehensive report on Juvenile Justice trends check out the full State of Juvenile Justice in Wisconsin report.

 

By Jim Moeser

We Can Fund What We Need to Fund

For thousands of years, people have recognized the responsibility of a compassionate society to care for, support, encourage, and provide a quality life for all people, including the most vulnerable among us.  To this end we establish governments, elect leaders and pay taxes.

How those taxes are collected and how those tax monies are utilized, however, becomes the subject of often heated debate. Budget time in Wisconsin, for example.

There are two lenses through which we can view our financial situation as a state: scarcity or abundance. How we view things has ramifications for how we live together. Believing there is not enough leads to anxiety, a closing in on oneself, a tendency to hoard. Those who have little are pitted against those who have less. Resentment, frustration, anger, and fear are fostered.

On the other hand, viewing our financial opportunities from a perspective of abundance opens us up. Feeling financially secure fosters cooperation and generosity. Equitably sharing the responsibility for the support and improvement of our society as a whole creates opportunities.

As we consider the state budget, it is easy to believe there is not enough.

The alternative budget we propose today discredits that myth. Rather than looking at our state resources from a perspective of scarcity, we look from a perspective of abundance. We have enough. We can fund what we need to fund to assure the strength of our communities and our state. By cleaning up the tax codes and eliminating tax loopholes that benefit the few at the expense of the vast majority, we can invest in Wisconsin and our commitment to supporting families and building thriving communities.

We can adopt A Wisconsin Budget for All.

Mary Stumme Froiland, Bishop
South Central Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA

Bishop Foiland’s remarks were given at a press conference in the Capitol in Madison, January 18, 2017, where “A Wisconsin Budget for All” was unveiled. “A Wisconsin Budget for All,” is a proposal that provides lawmakers with the framework to redirect $900 million of wasteful tax breaks into investments in the things that Wisconsin communities need to thrive: better schools, better health care, and an economy that works for everyone. Read the full proposal here.

Is the State of Our State Strong?

In a blog post we released just prior to the Governor’s State of the State address, we asked whether his proposals would prioritize investments in children and opportunity for all. To be fair, the State of the State speech is not usually the vehicle for detailed policy proposals, those details will be contained in the budget the Governor introduces in a few weeks. So as we look forward towards that, I am remembering a quote I heard a while back which goes: “Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you believe.”

In his speech the Governor said: “It is a moral imperative that every child has access to a great education.” I wholeheartedly agree. So if that is the belief, what is the budget? An analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project shows that Wisconsin public schools spent 5.4% less per student than a decade ago, while the national spending increased 4.2% over the same period. The University of Wisconsin system received a $250 million cut in the last budget. Perhaps that trend will begin to be turned around in the next budget, but whatever additional investments we may see in that budget must be considered in light of the significant cuts in the past. And that standard must be applied in other areas as well.

The main theme of the speech was that the state of the state is strong. The question this raises for me is, “For who?” There is no doubt that there are many in our state who are doing very well, but many are being left behind. Income is increasing at the top, while it is stagnant for the rest of us. At the same time, the well-connected and the wealthy pay a smaller portion of their incomes in taxes than the rest of us. We also have broad and deep racial disparities in our state, an issue that is essentially ignored by most of our state level leadership and was not mentioned in the speech.

We have some big challenges in our state. One of the tests of the budget is whether the solutions proposed are of sufficient scale to make a real impact on those challenges. If we claim to really care about a million dollar problem, and then only invest a hundred dollars, that tells me that we don’t really care that much. Moral imperatives are great, but budgets are moral documents. I believe what we invest in is the best indication of our morals and our values.

Ken Taylor