In a recent report from the Annie Casey Foundation, Wisconsin was listed as having the largest wellness gap in the nation between African American children and white children. The index score for African American children in Wisconsin was 279. For whites it was 762.
On first glance it would seem to be a damning declaration of racial disparity. Said Ken Taylor, executive Director of Kids Forward, “We are not going to be successful as a state if we leave an increasing portion of our state behind and further from opportunity.”
The report based its conclusion on such statistics as high school graduation rates, children who live in a 2 parent household, the number of children living in poverty, etc. Taylor was quoted as saying, “We need to invest in kids through high quality education at all levels from cradle to career.” But before we “invest” more in education we need to know where Wisconsin stands in per pupil spending against other states.
In another report, this from the US Census Bureau regarding public education finances in 2013, it showed Wisconsin spending $11,071 per pupil in elementary and secondary education. Twenty one states spent more than Wisconsin and 28 spent less. Utah was the state that spent the least in this category at $6,555 per pupil. New York spent the most at $19,818 per pupil or three times as much as Utah. Utah’s score for African American students was 546 and 735 for white students. New York’s score for African American Students was 404 and for whites 772.
The state that spent the least amount of dollars per pupil for elementary-secondary education, Utah, had a higher index score for African American students than New York which spent the most. Obviously the amount spent per pupil on education has nothing to do with narrowing the racial gap in index scores.
Something else is going on here affecting these index scores other than the amount spent on education. Perhaps it is poverty levels. Wisconsin’s poverty level is 13.2% with Utah’s being 11.8%. Perhaps it is the single family household rate. Wisconsin’s rate is 7.62% and Utah’s is the lowest in the country at 4.11%. Perhaps it is a combination of a whole bunch of things we do not even know and understand.
But what we do know is that we do not want to make decisions on spending millions more of taxpayer dollars on education based on this report. Sorry Ken Taylor. Sorry Anne Casey Foundation. Let’s change the tune on the juke box. More taxpayer money will not cure every societal problem.