The University of Wisconsin system is still reeling from the blows Gov. Scott Walker (R) has dealt in recent years.
The last budget the governor signed into law cut $250 million from the state’s public universities. That number, which was slightly less than the $300 million in cuts Walker sought, matches the contribution taxpayers are making for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
But in an op-ed published Thursday on right-wing radio host Charlie Sykes’ website, Walker actually bragged about how well he’s handled University of Wisconsin colleges during his tenure.
“I am proud that, for the first time ever, we froze tuition at all University of Wisconsin (UW) campuses for four years in a row,” Walker wrote. “When I travel the state and hear from high school students, parents, and grandparents, one of the most frequent concerns I hear about is the cost of higher education. With that in mind, my goal is to continue to freeze college tuition.”
Walker argued that despite what you may have heard about his budget cuts, the UW system has plenty of money.
“While there has been a great deal of talk about finances, it is important to note the overall UW System budget this year is the highest it has ever been, and the next state budget automatically starts with $50 million added to the base for the UW System budget,” he wrote.
That claim is misleading. The UW budget is “the highest it has ever been” in spite of Walker. As PolitiFact explains, UW schools get money from a variety of sources besides the state, such as federal research dollars and gifts. While the $6.2 billion UW budget for the 2015–16 academic year was indeed the largest ever, state support is actually at a historic low when the figures are adjusted for inflation.
Walker Thought His Business Tax Break Would Stimulate The Economy. The Early Returns Aren’t Good.In 2011 – the same year Scott Walker became governor – Wisconsin enacted a Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit (MAC) meant to stimulate…thinkprogress.orgFaculty noticed. Last spring, Amy Ellis, a math professor who left Madison at the end of the school year after a dozen years for a job at the University of Georgia, told The Cap Times that Walker’s cuts, combined with his push to reduce certification requirements for teachers, left her feeling like education just isn’t valued in Wisconsin like it once was.
“I can be anywhere, and up until now I chose to stay in Wisconsin, but I no longer feel it is worth it to give my talent and effort to a state that explicitly devalues education,” she said, adding that she’ll be taking her research funding with her.
“It’s important that people understand that when faculty like me leave, we not only take our ability to improve the quality of teaching and learning to another state,” Ellis continued. “I’m taking over $2.2 million from Wisconsin to Georgia.”
As PolitiFact notes, another reason the decline in state tax dollars devoted to the UW system is problematic is because officials generally have more discretion in spending them than they do with regard to federal research dollars or gifts that are earmarked for specific purposes.
A call to UW officials asking for more information about the specific number of faculty members who departed after the 2015–16 academic year wasn’t immediately returned.
Walker mentions in his op-ed that he may restore some of the deep cuts he made — with certain unspecified conditions. “Looking ahead, I will propose an increase in funding for the UW System, and it will be connected to performance metrics,” he wrote.