The Governor in 1990 created the Commission on Families and Children, comprising the Governor, the Secretary of Health and Social Services, the Secretary of Industry, Labor and Human Relations, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and 17 public members representing a variety of interests involving services for families and children. The Commission was directed to assess the status, scope, and effectiveness of all existing programs affecting families and children at the state level, and to review and evaluate state policies in order to draw a blueprint to direct future development of these programs.
It is expected that the Wisconsin legislature will study again the mechanisms that enhance collaboration both at the state and local level. Passage of legislation will depend on the size of the fiscal note.
A school board, in conjunction with one or more public agencies or nonprofit, community-based organizations, may apply for a three-year grant to develop and implement a collaborative service program for preschool or elementary grade pupils - or both - and their families. Programs are designed to improve the academic achievement of pupils, increase the efficiency of service delivery by reducing duplication of effort, and foster cooperation among schools, service providers, families, and pupils.
The state superintendent and the secretary of health and social services review the applications and jointly determine the grant recipients and the amount of each grant. Grants for Collaborative Projects are three-year grants to a rural school district, suburban school district, and urban school district - other than the district operating under Chapter 119 - for projects conducted in collaboration with the county social services or human services department, integrating social services and school responsibilities affecting pupils and their parents. Preference is given to projects that deliver services at a single location.
Learning Assistance Grants can be used to coordinate education and health and social services for pupils and their families; to integrate early childhood education and child care grants to local districts based on a local plan, which must include a collaboration component; and to provide educational, health, mental health, nutritional, and social services to low-income preschoolers and their families.
Implications include changes in statute regarding governance, i.e., charter schools; the need to conceptualize an oversight mechanism for community-based activity; and reallocation of existing dollars.
State-Level Agency Heads and Staff
Restructuring is based on a clear mission, participatory management, and the open flow of information. Accountability is based on measurable outcomes and funding tied to those outcomes. Staff must be trained in systems thinking.
Local Agency Staff
Staff need to develop partnerships with those from their agencies. The amount of money pooled to support collaborative efforts should increase. Electronic networking capabilities must improve. Staff must be given permission to experiment. The number of staff and agencies participating in collaboration training/activities will increase.
Families will benefit from a single point of access to information and support and opportunities to make choices. Services will be designed and implemented to build on the strengths and resources of children and their families. Identification of needs will occur earlier and focus on the support and maintenance of intact families. Finally, efficiency and effectiveness will improve through total quality management or a continuous improvement model.
The primary barriers to change are lack of time and imagination, tradition, and an attitude that says, "If we are so good why should we change?"
According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction John T. Benson, "We cannot expect families and schools to be solely responsible for raising and educating our children. All the adults and older children in a community have a duty and responsibility to be part of that process and to share that burden. Until we recommit to the idea that it's everybody's business to raise the community's children, we as a society will continue to struggle and fail in our attempts to educate all the children of all the people."
Posted on March 23, 1995