By Ariele Vaccaro
Just days after the release of a report that points out Wisconsin as having the largest high school graduation rate gap between Black and white students, three lawmakers announced a combined effort to establish offices for African-American affairs.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Khalif Rainey has already seen positive feedback for his proposal on the county level.
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is supporting the plan.
On Wednesday morning, the Committee on Health and Human Needs approved the resolution unanimously.
Next, it will need approval from the County Board.
Alderman Willie Wade will push for similar legislation at the city level.
In addition, State Representative Leon Young will endorse a state African-American affairs office.
A number of American states and cities, including New Mexico, Connecticut, and Washington D.C., have already opened similar offices. According to Rainey, Wisconsin’s offices would need to allocate even more efforts than those to make the state a place where Black families can thrive.
“We have a lot on our plate,” said Rainey. “It’s going to have to be a whole lot more aggressive and deliberate.”
Among the issues Rainey wants to see addressed by the offices are education, health, incarceration, and poverty.
The offices would be staffed by grant writers, research analysts, and an executive director who would come before lawmakers to propose, support, or oppose legislation.
“I believe this is not a magic bullet,” said Rainey.
However, he feels that the offices would be able to bring together numerous “fragmented” efforts already working to make positive change for African- Americans in Wisconsin.
On Oct. 19, the U.S. Department of Education released a report which showed a number of states shortening the graduation rate gap between “traditionally underserved students” and other demographics.
States like Illinois, Delaware, Oregon, Alabama, and West Virginia cut their achievement gaps the most.
However, Wisconsin graduated 92.9 percent of white students in the 2013- 2014 school year, but only 66.1 percent of Black students. That leaves a gap of 26.8 percent.
The state also sustains the highest rate of African-American men in prison.
Milwaukee, in 2015, began to see a surge in gun violence that continue to plague its African-American community.
Rainey cited Business Insider’s Oct. 21 report, “RANKED: The 50 best suburbs in America”, in which Whitefish Bay took the number 21 spot, and Fox Point took 19. “Right here in between [the two suburbs], we’re living in the worst place to live with Black families,” said Rainey.
Still, the county supervisor is optimistic, offering that the offices would be a way to show that “Black lives do matter,” and that Wisconsin could pave the way for other communities to do the same.