|We've got NEWS|
|Thursday, November 12, 1998 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
DWD News Office
Statement by Linda Stewart, Wisconsins Workforce Development Secretary, in response to todays report by the Urban Institute on Wisconsin government spending on low-income children:
"The Urban Institute has not yet provided either its study or its methodology to us.
"However, its clear the study already is badly outdated.
"The ways the state provides help to children has changed significantly since 1994-95, with Wisconsins year-old W-2 program being a very prominent example. The advent of W-2 in 1997 increased income for families. AFDC paid the average family (of three) $517 a month. W-2s lowest payment level is $628, and many get at least $673. Today, only about 10,000 families remain dependent on government for their income.
"As another example, the report gives Wisconsin relatively low scores for spending on child care, yet Wisconsin is well into a program making major funding available in that very area. The report thus missed the near-tripling of resources commited by the state to child care, from $50 million to $177 million.
"In addition, a study by the National Survey of Americas Families of the very same 13 states cited by the Urban Institute -- but for 1996 -- shows Wisconsin with the lowest percentage of children below poverty in one-parent families, and as low as any of the 13 states of children below poverty in two-parent families.
"The state-to-state comparisons used by the Institute appear to assume that all states started the study period with equal programs, or are equally efficient in the use of the dollar.
"That is unrealistic. It also places a state at a disadvantage if, because of cost-effective administration of programs or simply earlier program effectiveness, for example, it NEEDS to spend less.
"Its unfortunate the study does not measure results. When you consider results, Wisconsin is outperforming other states. The respected Annie Casey Foundation of Baltimore reported earlier this year that, for the decade up to 1995, child poverty in Wisconsin had decreased by 13 per cent, making Wisconsin 10th best in the U.S. in that category. The Foundation consistently ranks Wisconsin in the "top 10" states for children. Most recently, in 1998, they ranked us 6th best in the U.S. to raise children.
"Further, the infant mortality rate has declined by 20 per cent. The high school dropout rate has declined by 50 per cent.
"Comparing the percentage of a state's budget spent on programs to support poor children, as the Institute study does, reflects only ONE way to assess the priority each state places on low-income children's programs relative to other state-funded programs. But it is not the only, or necessarily the most relevant, way.
"The study does not consider the unique partnerships that were created to support Wisconsin's welfare reform program. Wisconsin has a strong partnership with counties and local agencies to make the programs responsive and flexible to community needs. The study neither considers those partnerships nor the spending issues that goes along with these critical relationships.
"Wisconsin believes strongly in supporting family programs that promote self-sufficiency. Wisconsin Works (W-2), which was implemented after the time period of the study, is getting results.
"Wisconsin is also striving for long-term success. We aren't looking to be on the top of the Urban Institutes list, if it means simply spending more money. Wisconsin's program channels money to efforts that don't compromise long-range self-sufficiency and success."
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