Gov. Scott Walker announced Sunday he will increase the state’s funding of Wisconsin technical schools by millions of dollars, but some of the requirements to receive the aid was met with mixed reviews.
A statement from the governor’s office said he will fund initiatives to improve the Wisconsin Technical College System in his budget, which will be released later this month.
The statement said the two initiatives will go toward performance-based funding for technical colleges and an increase in aid and support for work training.
Madison College Provost Terry Webb said Walker is interested in investing more money in the Wisconsin Technical College System. He said he does not know how much funding Madison College will receive, but added he supports Walker’s decision.
“We applaud that,” Webb said. “We think that’s a good thing.”
The statement said Walker’s budget will allocate an additional $5 million in aid for technical schools.
The budget will also give technical schools access to $22 million to help expand programs and train potential workers in fields where there is a high demand for workers, the statement said. The program would require Wisconsin Technical College System to track results and adjust their programs to continue to bridge skills gaps, according to the statement.
According to the statement, technical schools will receive performance-based funding, which would mean an extra $88.9 million in aid between 2014 and 2020. This aid would be focused on the schools with the highest job placement rate and programs in high demand fields, the statement said.
Walker has targeted areas where there is a gap between available skilled workers and job openings, Webb said. These sectors include manufacturing, health care and, more recently, accounting and finance, he added.
Webb said Madison College welcomes some performance-based funding because the goal of the technical college system is to get people into careers. Madison College already measures how many of its students get jobs and what fields those jobs are in, he said.
In an interview with the Capital Times, Webb said he thought tying funds to job placement is “a flawed approach.”
He said Madison College measures its students’ career readiness and many students take standardized tests. He said students preparing to be nurses, technicians and other medical positions take a health care test.
According to Webb, Madison College students do far better than the national average. He said this is also true for many of Wisconsin’s technical colleges.
Walker’s statement also discussed requiring every public higher education school to offer 30 credits that can be transferred among all the public schools.
“[Walker] is trying to streamline the process,” Webb said. “We’re pleased with any progress we can make with streamlining the transfer process.”
He also would allocate $2 million to a flexible degree program that would allow students to receive credit for prior experiences and earn a degree using both online and face-to-face components.
Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said she supports funding education, but wishes Walker had realized the importance of technical schools two years ago when he cut their funding.
“It was incredibly short-sighted to take that money away,” Sargent said.
She said it is important students have access to a wide range of educational options. She said some people do better in a class that prepares them for a four-year college, while others perform better in classes that teach them how to draw blood.
It is also important, she said, to know the areas where employers are looking for employees and make sure a work force is being created for those needs. Sargent emphasized the importance of having opportunities for all different types of learners.
Sargent said she wanted more information on where the money to increase the technical schools funding was coming from. She said this is not clear, and when funding is increased in one area, it is usually taken away from another.
“When we do have the budget available, we need to go through it with a fine-toothed comb,” Sargent said.
Walker will officially release his budget Feb. 20.