MADISON — Black and Hispanic legislators called for more opportunities for minorities Monday during the first annual State of Black and Brown Wisconsin address that highlighted the struggles facing minority children in the state.
The newly formed Black and Latino caucus put on the address in the state Capitol. A group of Democratic lawmakers from Milwaukee formed the caucus earlier in February in honor of Black History Month.
Member lawmakers took turns detailing such things as disproportionate incarceration rates to educational disparities between black and white children.
“This is about creating partnerships,” said Rep. David Crowley, the caucus chairman. “Yes, many will look at this and say this is dividing our state but this actually making our state stronger.”
Sen. Lena Taylor called Wisconsin the worst place in the nation to raise a black child.
Her office said later that her comment was based a 2014 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation that found Wisconsin compiled the worst composite score on 12 child welfare indicators for black children, including reading scores, graduation rates and children in two-parent families. Her office also cited a 2017 Center on Wisconsin Strategy report that found the black unemployment rate in Wisconsin in 2015 was nearly 11.6 percent compared to 3.9 percent for whites and 44 percent of black children lived in poverty compared with 11.6 percent of whites, the third worst ratio in the country.
Taylor called for regional job training centers and teaching blacks urban agriculture.
Rep. David Bowen said he wants the state to reach a point where university and technical colleges are free so blacks can receive job training and climb out of poverty.
Crowley called for more job training as well as improving transportation infrastructure so minorities can find ways to work. He lamented that many drug offenders see their licenses suspended or revoked, leaving them no way to get to work.
Rep. Leon Young lamented the creation of welfare-to-work programs, which provide financial aid to low-income parents who work or seek job training. He said he voted for Wisconsin’s program years ago but now realizes it was a mistake because it created generations of children that had to raise themselves.
Rep. Jocasta Zamarippa said Hispanic children fear President Donald Trump wants to deport them. She noted Gov. Scott Walker didn’t mention Hispanic struggles during his State of the State address in January.
Eve Hall, president of the Milwaukee Urban League, took the podium and told lawmakers that a new Foxconn Technology Group flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant offers job opportunities for minorities. The company has said the facility could employ as many as 13,000 people.