Gov. Scott Walker revealed his intended policies in a speech in California on Friday, which include lowering property taxes, providing additional aid to voucher schools and making public schools more accountable.
Walker detailed his intent to expect more accountability from public schools by noting they should be required to meet certain qualifications to receive more state aid. In response, University of Wisconsin System spokesperson David Giroux said UW schools have been issuing annual accountability reports for more than a decade.
“We have no problem sharing our performance data in ways that let policymakers understand more about how our public university is functioning,” Giroux said in an email to The Badger Herald. “In the last biennial budget, the Legislature and the governor provided 38 specific performance measures that we must report.”
Giroux said the UW System has already begun incorporating those measures into their reports.
Giroux also pointed out the system’s request for new state investment in the UW System is “tied to specific outcomes” pertaining to workforce development and economic growth.
“We know that taxpayers already see a tangible return on their investment in higher education, and we expect that any new funds will only increase our positive impact on Wisconsin’s economic resurgence,” Giroux said in the email.
Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Nass is very supportive of Walker’s proposed plans of increased accountability for the UW System.
“If [UW schools] want more money, they have to earn it,” Mikalsen said.
Mikalsen said Nass supports what he referred to as the “accountability bill,” which would cause schools that do not meet certain requirements to lose money.
According to Mikalsen, Nass supports the tax cuts as long as they do not result in a structural deficit.
Mikalsen said Nass also recommends looking at other areas of “unessential government spending.”
He added hundreds of students graduate with a four-year degree and then have to return to a technical college to learn skills that will land them a job.
“[These changes] are less about giving K-12 and higher education schools more money,” Mikalsen said. “We don’t want to pay for people to just sit in seats; we want to pay for classes that will cause students to land jobs. A degree that doesn’t lead to a job is a waste of resources and a waste of time for the students and their families.”
Christina Brey, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said it is important to note the governor made this announcement about his new policies in front of a crowd of fundraisers in California, miles away from where the policies will be put to use.
Brey said Walker’s new education policy is not about making schools more accountable, as there are already polices in place to do that.
Walker’s plan is to tie increases in funding in with schools reaching certain “benchmarks,” Brey said.
“It is one thing to give lip service to world-class schools, but it’s another thing to back up your words with actions,” Brey said. “The actions Walker has made involve historic cuts to education.”
Brey also said she cannot understand how the government would refuse to provide aid to struggling schools when, according to Brey, there are many factors which can cause schools to struggle, such as poverty.
Brey said denial of funding to these schools “defies common sense.”
She also disagreed with Walker’s plan to send more aid to “unaccountable” voucher schools.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” Brey said. “These voucher schools are a failed experiment as they have been proven to provide no better of an education than public schools.”