By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Recent reports that state bureaucrats screwed up and left tens of thousands of low-income kids without federal food assistance come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.
Gov. Tony Evers’ administration and the education agency he previously led are rife with incompetence and coverups.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, the Department of Public Instruction failed to collect the addresses of nearly 80,000 school children who may be eligible for federally-funded meals while stuck in virtual education.
DPI also has failed to track how many of Wisconsin’s nearly 500 pre-K-12 schools are still holding classes virtually, despite promises months ago it would do so, according to the newspaper.
“Why did we wake up one day and realize we didn’t have addresses?” Sherrie Tussler, executive director of the Hunger Task Force told the Journal Sentinel.
DPI educrats didn’t wake up one day and realize they hadn’t done their jobs. They got caught.
There is a pattern here from DPI, the agency Evers ran for a decade before becoming governor — a pattern shared by the Democrat and his administration.
As Empower Wisconsin first reported, DPI couldn’t tell a state senator how many students failed to show up for virtual classes statewide. At least it wouldn’t be able to for nearly a year. Documents show Milwaukee Public Schools’ Bryant Elementary has lost contact with “approximately 25 percent” of its student body since virtual learning began. Bryant certainly is not alone. Where is DPI?
No wonder so many children aren’t receiving taxpayer-funded food assistance. DPI has no idea where they are, and the agency appears to be in no hurry to find them.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is.
Evers’ dysfunctional Department of Workforce Development made tens of thousands of unemployment claimants wait months for their Unemployment Insurance payments. A year after DWD melted down in the wake of a flood of UI claims it appears Team Evers did little to prepare for, the agency is now trying to clawback benefits it erroneously paid out.
An audit shows DWD’s call centers answered less than 1 percent of calls during the peak of the unemployment crisis. Here we go again.
The Journal Sentinel reports the Evers administration sent about 168,000 letters telling families of students they were not eligible for food assistance benefits.
“That notification generated a flood of questions, overwhelming an understaffed call center that shut down almost as quickly as it opened,” the newspaper reported. “The call center on Thursday stopped taking live calls and turned on a voicemail system that told people to leave a message or contact the state by email. State officials haven’t said when the call center will start functioning.”
Precisely what happened at DWD. Claimants couldn’t get through. They waited on hold for hours, only to be dropped when the agency shut down at 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon.
That’s the kind of disconnect we’ve seen throughout the Evers era.
Just last week, the Department of Natural Resources was caught violating the state’s open records law — an ongoing theme for Team Evers. A Wisconsin resident filing an open records request was told agency employees were working remotely and that they couldn’t turn over physical records until Evers ended his lockdown of state government buildings. A longtime DNR bureaucrat told a Senate committee that filling such records requests was in the “nice-to-do category” but not a priority during a pandemic.
We further learned that 90 percent of DNR’s workforce is “working” remotely.
The Department of Health Services failed to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to residents in assisted-living facilities. It then secretly reported it had undercounted approximately 1,000 COVID-related deaths at long-term care facilities.
Wisconsin early on ranked as one of the worst states in vaccinating residents, particularly its most vulnerable, thanks to DHS incompetence. It took public shaming for the bumbling agency to wake up and turn around its abysmal record.
Failure after failure.
That’s the Evers administration. And it’s no surprise.