It is a well known fact that the educational outcome of our children is either boosted or hindered by their families’ socioeconomic backgrounds, and while this fact is hardly fair to those underprivileged students, (and despite a few halfhearted but well-meaning policies against it), this inequality is likely to persist. (Wisconsin 2006).
Although the rates for high school completion between whites and minorities seem to be slowly equaling out, a 1999 report from the U. S. Department of Education showed that nationwide while 27.5% of whites had received a Bachelor’s degree, only 12. 2% of blacks had attained that same level of education (Wisconsin 2006). In the State of Wisconsin, 15. 8% of whites have a Bachelor’s Degree, while only 6. 9% of blacks have the same, only about half of the nationwide percentage for blacks. (Demographic Profile 2004). In the Wisconsin school districts, the most important reason for the disparity in education between blacks and whites seems to be centered once again on socioeconomic ills.
In 1954 the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously agreed that segregating schoolchildren by race was unconstitutional, however fifty years later, while the ideas and decisions of 1954 seem fairly straightforward, the reality of the situation is a little less clear. In the Milwaukee area, the portion of the population that is black or Hispanic is rising, and the gap between black and white in Wisconsin as a whole is among the largest in the United States. (Borsuk 2004).
Wisconsin has struggled with the task of overcoming that particular stigma and in education at least has made some inroads, but much work remains to be done. The difference in test scores on a recently released federal government report between white and black eighth graders was larger in Wisconsin than in any other state in the United States. (Borsuk 2004). Keep in mind that white students in Wisconsin are on par educationally with the rest of the United States, yet a higher percentage of black eighth graders from Wisconsin scored below basic—the lowest category.
Previous studies also confirm that Wisconsin again takes the lead in the gap between incarceration rates between blacks and whites, and that “racial separation is the predominant pattern for neighborhoods. ” (Borsuk 2004). If racial separation is considered “normal” or usual in the average neighborhood, then changing that in the schools systems represents a huge obstacle. When the desegregation plan went into effect the Milwaukee Public School system was 60% white, and now it is about 15% white, but there are few schools that have substantial enrollment of both black and white students.
This means that the white children are leaving public schools to attend private schools, which helps very little in the overall desegregation efforts. Elizabeth Burmaster, Wisconsin’s state superintendent of schools says, “I believe that in Wisconsin the gap is very directly correlated to economic disadvantage. ” (Borsuk 2004). Low income kids, as we all know, do not do as well in testing areas or graduation as do children from higher economic families.
Because the lower income students are more likely to be black, the success rate of the black students, particularly in Wisconsin, are at very unhealthy rates, a problem that has been addressed by both Chapter 220 and the voucher system, with some small successes, but nothing to write home about. The white children are more likely to have parents with higher levels of education, leading to more economic advantage, while the black children are more likely to have parent’s with less education, leading to lower paying jobs.
It becomes a vicious cycle as the black children don’t seem to be receiving the same education as the white children which will in turn cause them to work at low-paying jobs creating yet another generation of the disadvantaged. Legislation in 1995 brought major changes in the funding of the state school finance system. This legislation brought greater reliance on state funding and property tax relief for property owners. The educational needs of Wisconsin children have been slated to go up against demands for lower property taxes by area residents.
The unfortunate result of this legislation was that wealthy districts benefited disproportionately, “redistributing over $19 million from districts of moderate and low property wealth to the 35 wealthiest districts in the state. ” (Statz 1997). Additionally, the districts with the highest property values and lowest tax rates received higher amounts per pupil of school levy tax credit than the districts with low property wealth and higher tax rates, again causing the wealthier school districts to be given larger monetary benefits.
This legislation caused taxpayers in the majority of Wisconsin school districts (74%) to be worse off than under the old rules, and for what? When Wisconsin property owners received their tax bills, for most there was only a slight reduction. The bottom line is that taxpayers are being penalized for living in the wrong school district, and the lower-income districts, already struggling, have just taken another hit. (Statz 1997).