Wisconsin’s controversial Governor Scott Walker unveiled major new policy initiatives last week including cutting taxes and requiring Wisconsin’s schools, technical colleges and universities to meet certain benchmarks to earn state funding. Among the proposals was one to tie funding for technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System with how well those institutions prepare students to take available and needed jobs in Wisconsin.
The Republican governor said his proposals for education reform will tie funding to outcomes, including how well the education system meets the need for trained workers. Walker said he has heard “tremendous concerns” from employers in healthcare, manufacturing and information technology “that they have jobs but they just don’t have enough skilled workers to meet those jobs.”
“We’re going to tie our funding in our technical colleges and our University of Wisconsin System into performance and say if you want money, we need you to perform, and particularly in higher education, we need you to perform not just in how many people you have in the classroom. “In higher education, that means not only degrees, but are young people getting degrees in jobs that are open and needed today, not just the jobs that the universities want to give us, or degrees that people want to give us?”
Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson lashed out at Walker’s higher education funding proposal, criticizing it as “social engineering,” the Associated Press reported. Larson warned such a change could force students to study “what industry wants” rather than what students themselves want.
State appropriations per student at the University of Wisconsin have essentially stagnated over the past decade. UW has taken big hits in state funding during Walker’s tenure, and was targeted with $250 million in cuts over two years in the biennial budget in 2011, according to the Journal Sentinel.