MADISON – Normally a booming voice, Senator Lena C. Taylor (D-Milwaukee) was barely audible, as she held back tears during a tense exchange about the challenges facing the state’s students of color. Holding her chest, Taylor whispered “I am suffocating. I can’t breathe, for what we are doing to African American students in our state in particular”.
In day two of agency briefings before the Joint Committee on Finance, the Department of Instruction’s Tony Evers was caught in the crossfire of varying positions regarding how well Milwaukee’s children are faring in the city’s public schools.
Taylor rebuffed some committee members’ assertion that these students are in better shape today.
“What is evident from Superintendent Evers testimony is that this budget does not have the children of Wisconsin as a priority,” Taylor said. “Funding has been cut by this administration to 2009 levels, the number of homeless students is growing, and Wisconsin leads in the nation in academic disparities. For 20 years the funding formula used to calculate state aid has moved money away from those most in need” she continued.
Other agencies appearing today included the Departments of Natural Resources, Workforce Development, Health Services, and the University of Wisconsin. “I was deeply troubled by the testimony provided by President Cross, who explained the cuts to the UW System will not only affect the education programs and services provided, but will also have far reaching effects on our state, including on our business community. For example, Johnson Controls from my district, which opened an energy storage research lab, would lose $25 million in matching funds annually from the federal Department of Energy. Again the Governor’s promises to our state, in this instance to invest in Wisconsin businesses, fall flat” said Taylor.
From attacks on SeniorCare to little concern for the increased pressures placed on our educational systems, Taylor concluded “The plan that the Governor has put forward in his budget is a check that is going to bounce. Walker’s shortsighted decisions to give millions in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations in previous budgets are now coming back to bite us, and it’s our children are bearing the brunt of the damage. Wisconsin cannot continue to run on empty promises and insufficient funds.”