While Republicans organized in the legislature to make cuts to Milwaukee’s share of the state budget, Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) focused on child welfare. Darling stated during a Joint Finance Committee hearing that improving child care in Milwaukee “can’t happen at the state level.”
“We need to get the community to care about these kids,” Darling said.
Republicans attempted to make a $14 billion cut to state aid Milwaukee recieves through the shared revenue program, arguing that the cut would make up for the state’s expense in administering Milwaukee County’s child welfare program. Gov. Tony Evers restored the funds in the final version of the budget.
Mentioning her experience working within and making policy around the child welfare system, Darling said during the June 4th hearing, “I’m really confident that what we need to do is to get the community to care about these kids.”
“Until the community decides these children are valuable very little is going to change,” Darling said, adding, “it can’t happen at the state-level. We can’t just throw money at it.”
She also blamed Milwaukee leaders for not doing enough to fix the city’s struggling school district and foster care system. “We put together a program to have these children in sub-standard schools have other opportunities,” she said. “You know what? It failed because the school board decided that they weren’t going to cooperate.”
Sen. Darling has been an advocate for private and charter schools, while decrying Gov. Tony Evers for “trapping poor students in failing schools” and blaming communities in Milwaukee for being “willing to let them [children] have sub-standard schools.”
Sen. Darling went unchallenged during the hearing. Democrats were given only two chances each to speak during the lengthy committee session. Darling spoke toward the end of the hearing, after the Democrats’ opportunities had been spent.
Darling focused on drugs as a major factor in child welfare issues, “throughout the state, but mostly in Milwaukee County where these children are taken out of their families because the parents, or usually the parent, or maybe the grandparent, can’t take care of them.” Later on, Darling pin-pointed Milwaukee zip codes 53206-12 as the locus of failed leadership. Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code is the most incarcerated zip code in Wisconsin, the state with the largest rate of African American men in prison in the country. The other zip codes Darling named are largely African American districts, with some scattered throughout the city’s north side.
Darling said that she is “disappointed that we keep pointing the finger at someone else. It’s state, it’s this, it’s that, it’s this, it’s that, it’s money, you’re not giving enough money. We have to change our attitude and the culture that we have or nothing’s going to change.”