Several recent reports have highlighted the vast inequalities children of color face in Wisconsin, and a new national report ranks Wisconsin the worst place to live as a black child seeking financial and educational equality.
The report, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, titled “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” measured children’s opportunities in 12 distinct areas including education, financial security and home life.
In the areas measured, Wisconsin ranked 50th for black children, 37th for Asian children, 17th for Latino children and 10th for white children in terms of overall opportunity.
Linda Hoskins, president of the Madison NAACP chapter, said the issues encountered by minority children need to be addressed in homes and in schools.
“There are major issues that need to be looked at, and it all starts in the home itself,” Hoskins said.
Family issues such as unemployment, crime and mental health are at the root of many long-term issues for children of color, and Hoskins said services must be created to provide for a strong and financially-stable household. These services include access to job training for parents and affordable health care for the entire family, she said.
The report found that 70 percent of white children in Wisconsin live in households with incomes at or above 200 percent of the poverty level, while 20 percent of black children have that level of financial security. This lack of basic economic stability can be a trap for individuals working to make it out of poverty, Hoskins said.
Outside of individual families’ economic situations, the report showed problems in Wisconsin’s education system. According to the report, white middle school students are six times more likely to be at proficient math levels by eighth grade than black students, and white fourth graders are three times more likely to be at proficient reading levels than black children.
Hoskins said many of the issues children of color face are in the classroom. She called for a total reframing in the way Wisconsin’s education system deals with minority students, calling for a solution that approaches the problem with “pride, dignity and respect.”
Michael Johnson, CEO of the Dane County Boys and Girls Club, said the issues of racial disparity in Wisconsin are nothing new, and that the state must now use the data to make decisive moves forward to tackle these inequalities.
“When you scale it all back, this doesn’t shock people who live in poverty — it shocks those who don’t,” Johnson said. “I get tired of hearing these numbers. We have the data, we know what the issues are but now what are we going to do to address them? We have a lot of children that are struggling in this community and we need a bold and ambitious plan to address the disparities that exist.”