There is bipartisan concern, over the governor’s proposals for the University of Wisconsin System – especially for the impact it could have on smaller campuses. Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said Thursday that he’s been meeting with chancellors of UW campuses, and has come away with serious concerns about potentially deep impacts, from Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million dollars in cuts to the UW System over the next two years.
“His hamstringing their ability to be able to absorb these cuts is going to make it very difficult for us to recover,” Barca said.
Walker’s budget proposal includes the offer of greater autonomy and flexibility, through a public authority. But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the efficiencies that will be available to larger campuses like Madison and Milwaukee may not work for the smaller campuses.
“Many of their faculty already teach 12 credits, so there isn’t as much flexibility to say ‘just teach another class,'” Vos said. “My biggest fear is that some of these smaller campuses – a Whitewater, a Platteville, a River Falls, are going to feel a larger brunt of those cuts.”
Vos said it may be possible to reduce the size of the cut to the UW, depending on how the state revenue projections look later this spring.
Barca criticized what he sees as Walker’s negative attitude towards higher education. “Many Republican governors like to call themselves education governors. Our governor would never dare even suggest such a thing. It’s almost as if he’s the opposite,” Barca said.
“Somehow people have made it a characterization that Governor Walker doesn’t care about higher education,” Vos said. “I know that’s not true because I’ve talked to him about it. But when you a tough budget and you have to find ways to balance it, you ask everybody to take reductions.”