After eight long, arduous, frustrating and unproductive years, Gov. Scott Walker will no longer haunt the Governor’s Mansion starting next year.
Governor-elect Tony Evers represents a break from Walker politics, which have notoriously taken aim at public education. Evers, the state education superintendent, will likely attempt to remedy the ills the state contracted over these past years. Regardless, the long-lasting detriments of Walker’s war on education will linger.
The morning after the election, former UW history of science professor Mar Hicks tweeted that “the University of Wisconsin-Madison used to have an internationally-known History of Science Dept. It was dissolved under Scott Walker. He may be out, but it’s never coming back. Nor is all the talent that left the UW system. His administration had permanent negative effects.”
Though Hicks’ tweet is incorrect — the History of Science department did merge with the history department in 2017, but the merger had nothing to do with state government — but it does bring to light all the harm Walker’s budget cuts have done. Over time, Walker’s cuts began to influence other aspects of university life. A study carried out by the UW Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute found that more than 90 percent of UW faculty were distraught and had less morale because of the relentless budget cuts.
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If one were to navigate to the UW Budget website, they’d find countless professors lamenting lack of adequate space and funding from the state government.
Similarly, the university’s national ranking has worsened under Walker. One such analysis, based on US News, showed UW falling from its international rank of 41 to 49 over the Walker years.
Rankings aren’t everything and don’t necessarily reflect the health of the university, but it’s not coincidental that as the funding drained, so did UW’s prestige. Walker’s supporters point to his most recent budget as evidence he did, in fact, give more funding to the university system. This is true, but his intent is important to acknowledge. In the start of what proved to be a gruelingly close election, Walker was merely attempting to make voters forget about his seven years of budget slashing.
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Most infamously, in his 2015-17 budget, Walker proposed $300 million in cuts to the university system, which he dubbed the “Act 10 of higher education,”a reference to Walker’s slashing of union bargaining rights.
It’s not just higher education that’s suffered under Walker. He also launched crusades against K-12 public education throughout his mismanaged stewardship. From his first year in office, he positioned himself as against public education.
Since Act 10, median-public teacher pay is down 2.6 percent. According to a recent study, Wisconsin teachers are leaving the profession at a rate of 10 percent, some because their benefits have been cut by over 18 percent.
Over time, Walker has continuously drained the university and the state itself from education funding, and his legacy — now more akin to a disease — will unequivocally be based on its anti-education aspects. Now as Evers prepares to be sworn in with over three decades of public education experience, he has an uphill battle against the lingering impact of Walker’s cuts and vitriol.
The disease may be gone, but the effects will linger — they will continue to haunt the UW System and Wisconsin public schools as a whole, all while Walker fades into memory as if he was nothing more than a bad dream. No matter what Evers does, the damage will last.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and history.
Correction: A previous version of this column stated Mar Hicks’ tweet was accurate, when it is not. The Department of Science Department at UW is still alive as a part of the Department of History. For more information, please visit their website. The Badger Herald regrets this error.