testimony to Joint Finance Committee for Wisconsin State Budget, March 20, 2015

The only hearing for taking testimony about the proposed 2015-2017 Wisconsin State budget slated for Milwaukee, the state's largest city, was scheduled for today from 10am to 5 pm. By 6pm, they were hearing people who had signed up to speak at a little after 9am, so although the committee extended the hearing until 8:45, not everyone who signed up to speak would be heard, including myself. I submitted my testimony formally, and here it is for you.


My name is Jenna Loyd. I'm an assistant professor of public health policy at the Zilber School of Public Health at UWM. I joined the school to advance health justice, or health for all. Researchers know that people’s health is profoundly undermined by cuts to basic services, including health care, food, and elder care. People’s health is also harmed by economic polarization, by joblessness, by precarious and dangerous working conditions, and by racism. This proposed budget exacerbates these problems, and for this reason I adamantly oppose them.

We also know that education is fundamental to fostering health. I live in Milwaukee, and I’m growing increasingly worried that the joyful little kids I see running around the playground before school will be missing students. They will be missing students from my and my colleagues’ classes, not because they don't want to be in school learning about geography, geology, poetry, or art, but because UWM won't seem tangible to them, because tuition costs make college out of reach.

I see tuition as a regressive tax that affects working class students the most. Student loans are not a replacement for a publicly and well-funded university; in fact, people with student loans experience poorer mental health. I am deeply opposed to cuts to scholarship and programs that support the dreams of students of color and first generation college students. I want these students in my classes, doing research with me, and developing their own new programs.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observed to a group of medical doctors: “Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.” Cuts to K-12, the university, alongside all the other cuts, will increase inequality and injustice in health. More budget cuts, and threats to Chapter 36, not only undercut academic freedom for students and faculty, but they sacrifice futures. The students haven’t disappeared; the money has. It is past time to reverse course and fund a healthy public education.