Two state Republicans unveil an ambitious plan to fight poverty in Milwaukee’s central city.
Under-performing urban public schools would become charter schools, under the package of proposals that seems to follow Governor Scott Walker’s theme of going “big and bold.”
“Yeah, I mean, on one hand they are,” agrees state Representative Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield). “On the other hand,” he says, “It’s amazing they haven’t been done yet. I mean, schools have been failing for decades. They continue to operate without changing the status quo.”
Kooyenga says the status quo isn’t working, so he and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) are offering special rules and exemptions for inner city neighborhoods and business zones, and strict rules for public schools.
“If somebody says they don’t agree with anything in the package, I think they’re on another planet. There’s a lot of stuff in there everyone can agree on. There’s a lot of stuff in there which I know will bring about some change to the economy in those neighborhoods.”
Among other things, the 25-page plan eliminates corporate income tax for new companies that set up shop in urban zones. There’s a localized right-to-work provision for businesses in those areas, and incentives to groups that help newly-released prisoners avoid committing new crimes.
Kooyenga, Vice-Chair of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, points out 2014 marked the 50-year anniversary of the war on poverty. Since 1964, taxpayers spent over $22 trillion to combat poverty. He says little, if any, progress has been achieved.
State Representative David Bowen hopes to work with Kooyenga and other lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle on this issue.