September 2, 2015

Lawmakers want hearing on possible UW merger

Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)

Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)

Members of a state Senate committee are calling for details to be released about a possible plan to merge the two-year University of Wisconsin campuses and Technical College system.

A special work group has been meeting behind closed doors on the issue. Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) argues those talks should be taking place in public though. “We just feel it’s time for them to open the process and allow the public to participate in it.”

Hansen is the ranking member of the Senate Universities and Technical Colleges Committee. He recently signed on to a letter to the chair of the panel calling for a public hearing, which he argues would allow the public, administrations, students, and faculty to weigh in.

No legislation has been introduced yet and Hansen admits that, once an actual proposal comes forward, it is likely to receive a public hearing. However, he notes that lawmakers pushed through budget cuts and other changes to the UW in the state budget with little public input, and he’s worried the same could happen with this issue.

Staff for Republican state Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), who chairs the committee, said she had not yet reviewed the request.

Report critical of cuts to Wisconsin public schools

File photo/ Jackie Johnson

(File photo: Jackie Johnson)

As fall classes get underway, advocates for children are sounding an alarm over the situation facing public schools in the state.

A report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families is critical of the impact state budget cuts have had on education policies. Council research director Jon Peacock says that “as the state has been cutting funding for schools…that’s resulting in larger class sizes and also a sharp reduction in experience for teachers.”

The report argues that spending on schools declined in Wisconsin, during a period where the national average was increased. While the state does continue to spend more on per pupil spending than the national average, the state fell from 13th highest among state to 21st between 2005 and 2013.

Peacock says the number of experienced teachers in classrooms has also seen a large drop in the past five years, after a wave of retirements following the passage of Act 10 – legislation that restricted collective bargaining for many public sector unions. Prior to the law taking effect, Peacock says about 60 percent of schools had teachers with average experience level of at least 15 years in the classroom. Now, only about 40 percent of schools hit that threshold.

The number of teachers working in Wisconsin schools also fell by almost 3,000 between 2005 and 2013, which Peacock says means more crowded classrooms and less individualized attention for students.

The report concludes that “if lawmakers continue to prioritize tax cuts above public schools, students in Wisconsin public schools will continue to have increasingly crowded classrooms and fewer experienced teachers.”


Wisconsin holds steady on ACT scores

Source: DPI

Source: DPI

Wisconsin once again had the second-highest scores in the nation on the ACT college entrance exam.

The Department of Public Instruction says 2015 high school graduates had an average composite score of 22.2, out of a possible 36 on the exam. The score is unchanged from last year, and it ties Wisconsin with Iowa for the second best score in the nation among states where the majority of graduating students take the test. Top scoring Minnesota was a half-point higher.

About 73 percent of the public and private school graduates in the state took the ACT this year, compared to 59 percent nationally. Wisconsin students averaged 10 points higher than the national benchmarks in math and English.

Almost all Wisconsin juniors also took the ACT as part of their state evaluations. Those results are due out this fall.

UW Colleges consolidate administration

UW_system_board_of_regentsState budget cuts have led the UW System’s two-year colleges to cut 83 full-time administrative positions. UW Extension and Colleges Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said they’re consolidating into four regions, with one administrative team overseeing each.

“Instead of having full administrative staff on each of our 13 campuses, we’re going to cluster the campuses together in regions under one leadership team,” Sandeen said. “We’re doing that because we’re forced to, and we believe that it also will allow us to provide the services that we need to provide to our students.”

The Colleges are not eliminating any faculty positions, but will cut the instructional budget by $100,000. The 13 campuses lost $5 million in the budget.

“We’re not cutting the academic programs at all. So we’re not cutting any faculty positions and we’re not cutting any classes. What’s being regionalized is administration only,” Sandeen said. “We started this whole process with the assumption that we would not be closing any campuses. They’re too important to the communities they serve.”


University of Wisconsin Colleges to cut 83 positions

State budget cuts will result in a number of changes for the University of Wisconsin System’s 13 two-year college campuses. The budget signed by the governor earlier this month cut about $5 million from the colleges, which was part of the overall $250 million in cuts made to the UW System.

UW Colleges and UW-Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said Tuesday that they will deal with the reduced funding by eliminating the equivalent of 83 full-time positions and consolidating leadership of the colleges into four geographic regions.
Most of the job reductions will come in campus administration and no faculty positions are being targeted. Only $100,000 will be cut from instructional budgets.

Sandeen said the cuts were extremely difficult, but will help UW Colleges position itself for the future. “We are consolidating and regionalizing our administrative functions so that we can keep our promise to Wisconsin students, families and communities to provide access to a high quality University of Wisconsin education,” she said.