Governor Walker champions bold education reforms, faces opposition

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) is championing “bold” and gutsy education reforms in his 2015 budget proposal and the usual suspects are incensed.

The Governor’s budget proposal, released Tuesday, seeks to defund Common Core aligned testing, expand school voucher programs, and cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System.

The audacious university system cuts, Walker said in a press release Thursday, will create a “stronger University of Wisconsin System that is more efficient, more effective, and more accountable to taxpayers.”

The University of Wisconsin system, which educates 180,000 students on 26 campuses, is one of the largest public higher education systems in the country, employing nearly 39,000 people.

The governor’s proposal includes a two-year tuition freeze and an expansion of UW’s autonomy over tuition, construction, and procurement.

Opponents are calling his proposal the “deepest cut in state history” and the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution declaring a “strong opposition” to the $300 million defunding motion.

The cuts, according to UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank, are “too large for the state, too large for the university, and too large for the system to absorb.”

However, this isn’t the first time that educators have decried cuts in the UW system, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the governor’s office.

“In the 2003/05 state budget, former Governor Jim Doyle cut the UW by $250 million. He did not give them reforms to make up for the lost state aid. They made up most of it with higher tuition,” the governor’s office said Thursday in a press release.

In an interview with Charlie Sykes, Walker compared the UW budget proposal to Act 10, the controversial budget repair bill passed in 2011 that impacted the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees.

"This could be compared to Act 10 in the sense that we’re giving the UW Schools the tools to improve their flexibility and efficiency,” Walker said. “It clearly puts the ball in their court."

“They will know going forward what they get from the state and the taxpayers. I think it will make them more effective, more efficient, and ultimately more accountable to the taxpayers of this state,” Governor Walker said.

On Tuesday, Student Association President President Ryan Sorenson distributed a campus-wide email, obtained by Campus Reform, emphasizing what he perceives to be the negative impact Walker's proposed cuts will have on campus.

"These cuts will be a severe detriment to the quality of education, student experience, and research that UWM is able to provide," Sorenson told the student body. 

Sorenson proceeded to include links to College Democrat sponsored student demonstrations and other anti-budget cut protests occurring on campus.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @CalebBonham