Friday, January 30, 2015

Walker's attacks on the UW System are inexcusable

Tax cuts for the wealthy are responsible for budget deficits, not higher education

Scott Walker is attacking education on several fronts. Most recently, he's attacking the University of Wisconsin.

Higher education is taking a huge hit in his latest budget scheme. Walker plans to cut spending at UW campuses by $300 million -- or roughly a 13 percent drop -- over the next two years.

Those cuts would be unprecedented. "[A] $300 million cut to the UW System is the single largest cut that we would sustain if it were to remain at that level," according to UW-Manitowoc Dean Charles Clark.

Walker also suggested that campuses "might be able to make savings just by asking faculty and staff to consider teaching one more class a semester."

"I call it Act 10 for the UW," Walker said.

But that plan doesn't bode well with System President Ray Cross.

"It just reflects a lack of understanding," Cross said.

Indeed, Cross points out that professors typically work between 50-60 hours per week at UW campuses. Walker's suggestion is that they work more?

(Sidebar: How many hours of actual work does Walker perform? There's a question that's going unanswered.)

Of course, these cuts and measures wouldn't be necessary if we had simply invested our state budgets better. Walker's budget deficits and the need to fix them are what's driving these outlandish proposals, not the work habits of our universities' faculties.

Instead of cutting education, we should invest our priorities in better ways. Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks, mainly benefiting Wisconsin's wealthiest, isn't responsible budgeting. And putting the burden on the UW System is hardly how our campuses became some of the top places in the world to get an education.

Forcing faculty to work longer and drastically cutting their resources is going to have one result: a "brain drain," a loss of our top professors who will undoubtedly relocate because of Walker's attacks on them.

Walker himself is a college dropout, but that shouldn't matter. Even people who don't earn a higher education understand the value of it, of what it brings to our state. The societal impact of our universities, not to mention the jobs that they bring with them, is enough to make people understand that these cuts, this treatment of our UW faculty, is unfair and unwarranted.

Walker needs to back off. Big time.

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