As Gov. Scott Walker ramps up his 2016 presidential campaign, he’s using Wisconsin to show what he’d like to do to the entire United States of America. Right now, his budget—the one that would cut $300 million from universities while including $220 million in bonds for a professional basketball arena—is being debated, and Alice Ollstein takes a look at its effects on education:
Funding at UW-Rock County would be stripped back to levels not seen since 1998, and the school’s dean has said faculty layoffs are almost certain. The situation appears even more dire at UW-Eau Claire, where administrators have offered buyouts to a record 325 faculty and staff members — about a quarter of the campus’ employees. These so-called “go away packages” have been offered to nearly half of the school’s political science department. UW-Stevens Point reports they willeliminate several entire majors, even for studentscurrently enrolled in them.And it’s not just higher education feeling the pain.
Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.
The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.
Prediction: After cutting $12 million from the Milwaukee public schools, Walker will grandstand about how the schools are failing the children, using that to push privatization.
This is looming widespread disaster. In higher education, we’re talking about a significant number of jobs, including both faculty and staff. Students will be affected, too, and not just by bigger classes and less advising and support: If you eliminate entire majors, the students currently in those majors are going to have to scramble to graduate. It may take some longer to put together the courses needed for a new major, meaning they’ll accumulate more student loans. If the students had career plans based on a specific major, they’ll be graduating and looking for jobs at a disadvantage. In K-12 schools, already hit hard by Walker’s 2011 budget, another round of cuts could mean fewer guidance counselors, less art and music education, bigger classes, scantier classroom supplies—generally a barebones, second-class education.
Which Scott Walker would like to export to the rest of us starting in 2017. At least where Republican governors and state legislatures haven’t already beat him to it.