State superintendent calls education achievement gap a 'crisis'

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MADISON, Wis. (AP/WSAW) -- Wisconsin's schools chief says a nearly $600 million boost in education funding is a "down payment" on equity and closing the state's persistent achievement gap.

State Supt. Carolyn Stanford Taylor gives State of Education address in capitol rotunda (Photo source: WisEye)

State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor calls that gap a "crisis."

"50 years after the Civil Rights Act, we're still fighting for equitable educational opportunities for all our children. We have to get learning right on the front end, or Wisconsin as a state will never achieve true success," Taylor said.

She delivered the message Thursday during her first state of education address at the Capitol. Taylor took over as state superintendent after her predecessor, Tony Evers, was elected governor.

Stanford Taylor says progress is being made to address "deep, persistent gaps in achievement, access and opportunity."

The superintendent said challenges often fall in rural districts.

"Investing in our rural schools is a critical component of our statewide equity strategy. Every school in our state has a responsibility to ensure all students have access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education."

The Department of Public Instruction crafted an equity bill. It's a collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators and school board members to come up with what they believe is needed to improve outcomes for their students.

"Ideas like increases in special education funding, more mental health services, more support for English learners and investments in early childhood, after school programming and school nutrition."

The speech comes a week after standardized test scores showed that less than half of Wisconsin students are proficient in math and English. The scores also showed a continuing achievement gap.

Democrats say the poor test results showed the need to increase funding for K-12 schools, while Republicans say they showed that the status quo was not working.

Taylor is asking the state government to step up.

"Together with our legislature and our governor, we can continue to make the progress on a system of school funding that is responsive to the needs of every child."