Friday, June 12, 2015

Remaking the UW into UW-WEDC

[Updated] About Scott Walker's proposed and arbitrary $300 million cut to the UW system - - generously reduced to a mere $250 million by GOP legislators with a few strings attached, like maybe restoring the UW's historic public service mission which Walker 'accidentally' deleted, and effectively canceling faculty tenure (more about that, below)  - - I'm here to say that after reading Assembly Speaker Robin Vos' remarks in today's Journal Sentinel, let me be the first to say, "my bad, I misread the whole issue."

In short: my thinking was not nimble enough. Mea Cupla. Read on for my full apology.

All along I thought the rural-friendly GOP was going after the UW because the campuses are in cities which trend Democratic, as do many of the faculty (a two-party system is so old-timey here after Republicans have taken deep, gerrymandered control of all three branches of Wisconsin government).

And don't forget the GOP could do without those pesky UW students whose voting addresses and now-mandatory ID's with which Walker, Vos & Co. have meddled (See faculty, above).

I also wrongly assumed Vos was on some sort of anti-intellectual kick after reading his remarks some months ago aimed at unnamed UW professors - - but you know who you are, lazy eggheads, what with your job-creating grants and labs and tenure or whatever - - interested in "ancient mating habits or whatever" than the sort of private-sector workforce development focus Vos wanted out of UW faculty.

I'd incorrectly suspected the attack was related to a broader discounting of university education by the Walkerites, since Walker, and other top appointees like Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp, and former Administration Secretary-turned-Wisconsin Public Service Commissioner Mike Huebsch don't have college degrees, either.

I shouldn't have concluded that the administration's disdain for research and science when it comes to air pollution, climate change or water quality - - and wind farms and solar installations - - and even a major UW-Madison energy research program - - or whatever - - might play into the Walker/Vos embrace of a smaller, weakened, discounted, once-upon-a-time world-class university system.

The Walker/Vos message began to come into focus when I read in today's Journal Sentinel piece that "Vos says the intent today is simply to make campuses more disciplined, responsible, efficient and nimble…"

Aha! That rang a bell because I'd read much the same language in a news release on Walker's office website about his job creating methods, so to speak:
We can help address these issues by being nimble in training current workers and helping employers fill vacancies quickly.
And I found the same message in a later release from Walker about his proposed merger of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Agency with his personal baby and big bone thrown to the private sector - - the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

A merger he nimbly abandoned, along with his role as the only Board chair WEDC has ever had, after another brutal audit about WEDC's not-so-nimble management and performance was released by a separate, independent state watchdog accounting agency - - which Walker's partisan allies now want to disband.

Because the auditors had found fresh WEDC waste, fraud, abuse and dubious political influence in lending there.

Said Walker, before he and the WEDC took their latest beating, in an official statement with video on his official website that in no way reads like a political spot for a nascent campaign:
This week, I met with the boards of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to discuss the consolidation of state services, which will help to ensure state government is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public.
We announced our plan to merge state agencies and services earlier this year, as a government that is reduced in size and scope helps ensure a higher quality of living here in Wisconsin, and greater economic prosperity for our operate a lean and nimble government
Get it? The Walkerites are looking to bring their record of business and fiscal achievements - - successes like the WEDC - - to the UW System and higher education statewide, including:

*  Their whiff by more than 40% of the 250,000 jobs that the WEDC was going to help Walker create in one term;

*  The loss of millions of dollars of written-off loans, including largesse showered by the WEDC under Walker on businesses run by Walker campaign donors;

*  The Walkerites' ideological rigid refusal to improve their undefended state budget and 40th place ranking nationally in job growth with what should have been the no-brainer acceptances they declined of $800 million in available federal funds for Amtrak expansion and train assembly work, and a separate, $345 million in for health care funding.

I can't believe I'd missed it: sure, Walker said his targeting of the UW system was Act 10 for higher education - - in other words, more GOP-led crushing of public sector unions, more granting of authority for UW managers to be more authoritarian, and more reducing teacher take home pay to further encourage those generally-Democratic UW teachers with their grant-supported labs and cutting-edge entrepreneurism spin-off companies or whatever to look for work elsewhere.

But now I get it:

Walker and Vos want to bring all the business and financial successes of the WEDC, and their "crap budget" - - that from a GOP Assemblyman, not me - - to the UW system, since it is the UW system where academic freedom and research innovation produces business synergies and startups - - but which don't necessarily kick out the requisite, fawning news releases in which Walker and Vos receive their expected credit.

So I better understanding that what's happening to higher education in Wisconsin through the budget under Walker and Vos is less about grafting an Act 10: 2.0 on to UW campuses, and more about creating a new kind of campus based on the Walker record to date:



Anonymous said...

also worth reading on this issue.

MadCityVoter said...

The Wisconsin GOP fears a knowledge-based economy -- too swift, creative and flexible for old-line smoke-stack industrialists, the GOP's money-base, to control. They see the end of their world coming and would rather destroy the state and its' public institutions than face up to changing times. But times will change whether they want them to or not, and if the best and brightest find no opportunities here they will go create them somewhere else. And Wisconsin will keep on getting grayer, less educated, more superstitious, more fearful, more isolated, more outdated and so behind the rest of the country that they won't even be able to imagine what progress is anymore.

That will be Scott Walker's legacy -- a state that will think that poverty and ignorance is something to be proud of, as long as the wealthy don't have to pay any taxes.