In 2017, the Wisconsin Policy Forum uncovered troubling trends across Greater Racine. When our Resilient Communities Roundtable discussions further uncovered a lack of understanding about disparities across Greater Racine’s populations, The Johnson Foundation decided to launch a new kind of conversation. 

We began by listening, guided by a community advisory panel who recommended we focus on four areas: education, economy, health, and justice. In neighborhoods across Racine, we heard from grassroots and community leaders and nearly 300 community members who shared their experiences and perspectives. Their stories shed light on how we can build a more equitable and prosperous region for all.  

Our region’s diversity is our strength and the key to our success. We can build on this strength by focusing attention and resources on the neighborhoods and people most affected by these issues. Individually and collectively, we can make the Racine region a better place for all to live, work and enjoy—one conversation, one project, one day at a time.

Demographics

Racine County’s total population increased over the last 20 years from 188,831 to 197,727. However, the City of Racine’s population decreased from around 82,000 to 78,000.

The county’s population would be declining if not for growth in communities of color. Of particular note, Racine County’s Hispanic or Latino population has nearly doubled since 2000. And in 2020, the City of Racine was 46% White, 23% Black or African American, and 24% Hispanic or Latino.

Given these demographic trends, communities of color are increasingly important to the future of Racine County.

Education

In conversations with Racine Unified School District high school students, parents of K-12 students, teachers, principals, and counselors, we heard that no one sees racial equity; participants said there is unequal access to essential resources and want successful programs expanded to all schools.

They seek better anti-racism training for teachers and administrative staff, and greater diversity in staff and curriculum; clear, consistent leadership and communication; and efforts to build community beyond the school, supporting all children.

Key Themes & Recommendations

Education

No one sees equal opportunity.
Every conversation revealed perceived differences in access to the resources essential for education.

Understanding starts with education on racism.
Some teachers want to hear from people in the community and those with lived experiences.

Diversity and representation are missing in staff and curriculum.
Parents and teachers want to see better representation in textbooks and among staff.

School Quality

Classrooms have too many students and not enough resources.
Parents and students say the traditional classroom setup isn’t always effective, especially with more students and fewer teachers and aides.

Leadership and communications lack clarity and consistency.
Teachers want more consistency from administration. Students asked for more understanding and patience from teachers—while parents encouraged staff to listen to kids more.

There are programs that work—let’s expand them.
Parents pointed to examples of success, such as the Community Schools and Academies of Racine models.

Building Community

•Trust is in short supply, with more focus on blame.
The longing for mutual respect came through in conversations with every group.

•“Community” extends beyond the school walls.
Participants want to see more involvement from Racine businesses, community leaders, families and mentors.

•Students, families and teachers are eager to participate in decision-making.
Students, parents and teachers want to have more of a voice in decisions that affect them.

Economy

In conversations with people who were unemployed, low-wage/underemployed, and working women and mothers, we heard that the minimum wage is too low, especially with rising rents. Participants said opportunity is limited by race, gender and background. They seek more affordable talent development opportunities and childcare, and workplace flexibility that supports employees.

In conversation with business owners, we heard that our community lacks a shared vision and shared responsibility. Participants want to see more cross-collaboration across borders and sectors, entrepreneurship support, and qualified job candidates.

Key Themes & Recommendations

Equity & Opportunity

No one sees equal opportunity.
Every conversation revealed perceived differences in access to the resources essential for education.

Understanding starts with education on racism.
Some teachers want to hear from people in the community and those with lived experiences.

Diversity and representation are missing in staff and curriculum.
Parents and teachers want to see better representation in textbooks and among staff.

School Quality

Classrooms have too many students and not enough resources.
Parents and students say the traditional classroom setup isn’t always effective, especially with more students and fewer teachers and aides.

Leadership and communications lack clarity and consistency.
Teachers want more consistency from administration. Students asked for more understanding and patience from teachers—while parents encouraged staff to listen to kids more.

There are programs that work—let’s expand them.
Parents pointed to examples of success, such as the Community Schools and Academies of Racine models.

Building Community

•Trust is in short supply, with more focus on blame.
The longing for mutual respect came through in conversations with every group.

•“Community” extends beyond the school walls.
Participants want to see more involvement from Racine businesses, community leaders, families and mentors.

•Students, families and teachers are eager to participate in decision-making.
Students, parents and teachers want to have more of a voice in decisions that affect them.

Building Community

•Trust is in short supply, with more focus on blame.
The longing for mutual respect came through in conversations with every group.

•“Community” extends beyond the school walls.
Participants want to see more involvement from Racine businesses, community leaders, families and mentors.

•Students, families and teachers are eager to participate in decision-making.
Students, parents and teachers want to have more of a voice in decisions that affect them.

Health

In conversations with parents of young children, adults with limited access to healthcare, healthcare providers, and environmental leaders, we heard that quality healthcare is not seen as a given for people of all races. There is a fear of receiving diagnoses and treatment, exacerbated by barriers such as language, lack of healthcare literacy, and the spread of misinformation.

Community safety is also a concern as gun violence affects daily life and stress levels. Additionally, participants want more focus on addressing causes of health issues and prevention, making healthy food available in all neighborhoods, and increasing environmental literacy.

Justice

In conversations with adults and youth involved in the justice system, their parents and family members, law enforcement officers, public defenders and attorneys, we heard that there are racial disparities in arrests and sentencing, heightened by a lack of affordable legal representation.

Both law enforcement officers and community members said stereotypes and lack of trust pose challenges. Participants want more resources for rehabilitation, system-wide mental health support, and decriminalization.

Key Themes & Recommendations

Equity & Opportunity

No one sees equal opportunity.
Every conversation revealed perceived differences in access to the resources essential for education.

Understanding starts with education on racism.
Some teachers want to hear from people in the community and those with lived experiences.

Diversity and representation are missing in staff and curriculum.
Parents and teachers want to see better representation in textbooks and among staff.

School Quality

Classrooms have too many students and not enough resources.
Parents and students say the traditional classroom setup isn’t always effective, especially with more students and fewer teachers and aides.

Leadership and communications lack clarity and consistency.
Teachers want more consistency from administration. Students asked for more understanding and patience from teachers—while parents encouraged staff to listen to kids more.

There are programs that work—let’s expand them.
Parents pointed to examples of success, such as the Community Schools and Academies of Racine models.

Building Community

•Trust is in short supply, with more focus on blame.
The longing for mutual respect came through in conversations with every group.

•“Community” extends beyond the school walls.
Participants want to see more involvement from Racine businesses, community leaders, families and mentors.

•Students, families and teachers are eager to participate in decision-making.
Students, parents and teachers want to have more of a voice in decisions that affect them.

Building Community

•Trust is in short supply, with more focus on blame.
The longing for mutual respect came through in conversations with every group.

•“Community” extends beyond the school walls.
Participants want to see more involvement from Racine businesses, community leaders, families and mentors.

•Students, families and teachers are eager to participate in decision-making.
Students, parents and teachers want to have more of a voice in decisions that affect them.

It's Time to Act!

It's Time to Act!

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