Monday, May 1, 2017

Look past the spin, and realize Walker's UW budget is bad

In a series of whoppers and typical cherry-picked BS about the state budget, I wanted to go into one particular topic that Governor Walker talked about on his Sunday appearance with Mike Gousha.
While Walker’s proposed 5 percent tuition cut for UW students doesn't look likely to survive the Legislature's approval process, Walker said that he wants to ensure a tuition freeze. The cost of college is a common concern among high school students, he said.

Walker’s proposed budget add[s] $100 million to the UW System and $35 million for reduction in tuition. UW System President Ray Cross called the plan the best budget he’s seen in a decade.
$100 million increase + $35 million to cut tuition? Where does that number come from? The LFB’s own figures show the increase in taxpayer funding of the UW to be only $77 million over the next 2 years, and that includes the $35 million to “fill in” the 5% in-state tuition cut. So where is this "$100 million increase" that Walker is claiming.

My guess is that it's another sleazy spin job that counts on phantom money that'll be available from Walker's self-insurance scheme for state employees. Here's the key passage from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's March analysis of the scheme.
In addition, under assumptions made by the administration regarding estimates of compensation expenses, the bill would not provide sufficient funding to cover the cost of the proposed general wage adjustments for UW System employees if a self-insurance contract were not approved. To fund the proposed general wage adjustments and estimated fringe benefit costs for UW System employees in this case, the bill would need to be modified to provide an additional $9,853,000 GPR in 2017-18 and $19,705,900 GPR in 2018-19 to the UW System.
So if you add the extra $29.55 million that Walker claims will be “saved” from self-insurance, and add that into the $77 million in additional money to the UW that’s in the budget, then you end up slightly over $100 million. BUT, this also assumes

1. There actually will be a self-insurance plan approved for state employee health care (questionable) and that it’ll actually save $30 million for the UW (VERY questionable).

2. You INCLUDE the $35 million to fill in the 5% tuition reduction gimmick. But the way the article is written, the reader would think it’s $100 million + $35 million, and this is not true.

There are other flaws in the funding that is increased in Walker’s budget for the UW. First off, the LFB says that $42.5 million won’t hit for several months, and might be delayed entirely until the 2018-19 school year.
Require the Board of Regents to submit a plan for distributing the performance funding based on each institution's rank on criteria specified in the bill and criteria specified by the Board to the DOA Secretary no later than January 1, 2018. Specify that the plan would include the Board's method for ranking performance regarding each set of performance criteria specified in the bill and by the Board. The DOA Secretary would have 30 days to approve the plan or to require the Board to submit a revised plan. If the Board is required to submit a revised plan, the DOA Secretary would have 30 days to approve the plan or require another revised plan. The Board could not implement a plan for the distribution of the performance funding until such a plan was approved by the DOA Secretary. If the Board is unable to distribute the performance funding provided in the 2017-18 year, the Board would be required to distribute the entire amount of performance funding provided in the biennium, $42,500,000, in the 2018-19 year. The Board may only distribute the performance funding as specified in the plan approved by the DOA Secretary and may not otherwise spend the performance funding.
This means that UW funding would be contingent on the Walker Administration being OK with what the Board of Regents sets up. UW System President Ray Cross has asked that the Regents be the ones to sign off on the performance measures, but he needs the GOP-run Legislature to go along with that.

Also, take a look at what Walker wants these performance measures to be based on. It’s based on rushing students through the System and pushing them toward accepting crappy jobs, while turning faculty away from research (and the associated advances and dollars that come from it), and turning them into glorified tech college instructors.
The affordability and attainability criteria would be: (a) the average length of time for students to obtain each degree awarded by the institution; (b) participation in dual enrollment programs; (c) percentage of students who were awarded degrees who completed degree requirements within three years; (d) percentage of students who were awarded degrees who completed degree requirements within four years; (e) percentage of students who were awarded degrees who completed degree requirements within six years; (f) percentage of students awarded degrees in healthcare, science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; (g) the graduation rate of low-income students as determined in a manner specified by the Board; and (h) faculty instructional hours. The bill would define dual enrollment programs as programs or courses of study designed to provide high school students the opportunity to gain credits in both a high school and a university or UW Colleges campus. These programs would include transcripted credit programs or other education services provided by contract between a school district and a university or UW Colleges campus and the early college credit program.

The work readiness criteria would be: (a) the average number of high-impact practices experienced at any time during undergraduate enrollment by bachelor's degree graduates; and (b) the percentage of students who participated in internships at any time during their undergraduate enrollment. The bill would define high-impact practices as techniques and designs for teaching and learning that the Board has identified as proven to be beneficial for student engagement and successful learning among students from many backgrounds.

The student success in the state workforce criteria would be: (a) the percentage of students awarded degrees who obtained full-time postgraduate employment; (b) the percentage of students awarded degrees who obtained full-time postgraduate employment in a field related to the degree awarded; (c) the percentage of the state workforce, defined by the bill as the number of state residents aged 25 to 64, who graduated from the institution in the five priorfiscal years; (d) the percentage of students awarded degrees who are employed or continuing their education within one year of graduation; and (e) the number of degrees awarded by the institution that are in high-demand fields. Under the bill, the Department of Workforce Development would determine what constitutes high-demand fields and revise the determination as necessary.
Because all increases to the UW will be performance-based, that means some schools will win and some will lose. And the incentives are written is such a way that UW campuses that have a high amount of part-time and commuter students like UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Parkside and UW-Superior would be likely to be the ones who score lowest on these measures, and will see next to nothing of those increases in the next 2 years (here’s a look at UW’s graduation rates through 2015.).

So let’s not exactly break out the party hats for what Walker wants to do with the UW in this 2017-19 budget. It relies on a lot of rosy assumptions to allow a small increase in funding that doesn’t come close to reversing the hundreds of millions in cuts that have been given to the UW since 2011. And much of the increase will miss several schools who serve certain populations of students, leaving them even further behind.

This is merely the numbers side of the Walker budget on the UW. I’m not even bringing up Gov Walker’s support of the “Republican affirmative action” bill on campus speakers, a clear, regressive dog-whistle to low-educated white Wisconsinites.

So I gotta disagree with UW President Ray Cross, who says this is the best UW budget in the last decade. Our higher education system is still badly underfunded, is still being used as a punching bag by regressive Republicans, and is not being allowed to attract the best talent in order to compete at the highest levels. But then again, Ray Cross and Walker's hand-picked Board of Regents didn't get their jobs to keep the UW world-class, now did they?

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