Bottom Line Article
In The League
By Linda Jorgenson, Board Member - League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties
This is an incredibly heartwarming time of year in the North Country. Everywhere you look, in every community, individuals, churches, businesses, and civic organizations are generously making sure that everyone in our community has gifts to open and a holiday meal. In fact our counties can take pride in being seen as one of the most benevolent places to live in the US.
To build on this impressive culture, the League of Women Voters of Ashland and Bayfield Counties (LWV/ABC) is urging that we “up our game” and join a new statewide coalition to end childhood poverty in Wisconsin in the next ten years.
The End Childhood Poverty Campaign was created in 2016 by four groups. Two faith based organizations - the WI Council of Churches and WISDOM (an interfaith organization) - and two policy organizations - WI Citizen Action and Kids Forward (formerly WI Council of Children and Families). The Coalition was galvanized into action by the shocking 20% rise in poverty in Wisconsin from 2015-16 at a time when headlines touted low unemployment and increasing wages. Additionally, a growing body of knowledge regarding the negative long term physical and mental health outcomes for children raised in poverty demands action to end that poverty.
Out of the desire to sidestep ideological divisions and focus on a moral commitment to outcomes, the Campaign set a goal to eliminate child poverty in 10 years and to do it by advocating for best evidence-based practices measureable for their success. They sought out strategies identified by both conservative and liberal policy organizations. In particular, they were impressed with the success of the United Kingdom which set itself a similar goal in 2001 and has cut its child poverty in half.
The LWV/ABC has enthusiastically endorsed this Campaign. It is a logical follow up to its 2016 study on the Impact of Economic Inequality on Ashland and Bayfield Counties. It too was alarmed at the rise in the number of families who struggle monthly to meet their basic needs (48% in Ashland County and 36% in Bayfield County - from the United Way of Wisconsin’s ALICE Report).
The LWV/ABC seeks to partner with churches and civic organizations in this Campaign. The first step is collecting signatures and organizational endorsements to bring before the Wisconsin Legislature in 2019. The hope is that they will concur and enact a statewide goal and begin to focus on programs and policies that have demonstrated effectiveness: early childhood education and interventions, supports to families, and family sustaining wages.
Ashland and Bayfield Counties should be leaders in this effort. It would be the truest manifestation of our desire to practice the spirit of giving from all our faith traditions, and Wisconsin’s strong culture of caring for one another.
For more information about the Campaign please visit www.endchildpovertywi.org. If you would like to join the local effort please call LWV/ABC Board Members Jan Penn at 715-274-2942, or Linda Jorgenson at 715-373-2948. For more information about the local League go to www.lwvabcwi.org