Some of this involves the reliance of any state funding increases for the UW to rely on certain performance measures that could change the focus of how the UW delivers its education services. But I'm going to focus on another place in the UW budget, where the LFB discovered an error in Governor Walker’s budget that gives a clearer idea what the real, underlying numbers are.
Basically, the error involves mis-budgeting what the UW gets and spends from a variety of outside sources. This can include things such as tuition payments, self-sustaining operations like dorms and food services, and federal grants and aids. And the LFB says that it is time to clean up the numbers and make them more accurately reflect what the UW actually has and has been spending.
9. In addition to the PR general program operations appropriation, the UW System has eight other all-moneys-received appropriations. The UW System may spend any and all funds deposited in these appropriations and the amounts shown in the appropriation schedule for these appropriations do not affect the UW System's ability to spend these funds. However, to the extent that the amounts shown in the appropriation schedule are used as a measure of state spending in various areas, it may be beneficial to include reasonable estimates for these appropriations in the schedule….In addition, tuition revenues are slated to be $7.1 million less than what Walker assumes, even before we discuss the proposed 5% in-state tuition cut and $35 million backfill that JFC is unlikely to approve of. So if the figures are accepted by the Joint Finance Commission, combined with lower-than-budgeted tuition revenues, means that the total UW budget could show nearly $210 million less in spending than what Walker originally proposed in those areas.
11. … the expenditure estimates proposed under the Governor's budget are significantly different than actual 2015-16 expenditures for a number of these appropriations. As an alternative, the Committee could reestimate expenditures for these appropriations based on actual 2015-16 expenditures. This would result in an increase in estimated PR expenditures of $52,159,800 annually, a decrease in estimated federal revenue expenditures of $149,232,700 annually, and a decrease in estimated segregated revenue expenditures of $4,221,800 annually. (This assumes that the VDL appropriation for moneys received from other state agencies, which has had negative expenditures on the two most recent years, would be reestimated at $0.) It should be noted that the UW System would continue to have the authority to expend all funds received through these appropriations under both this alternative and the Governor's proposed budget.
In theory, that could mean there is a $210 million shortfall at the UW System under the Governor’s proposal, if the UW planned to spend all of those funds that the Governor had in his budget. But more likely it means that the Governor overestimated expenses that never happened in the first place, and all this will do is reduce the number of a dishonest Walker/WisGOP talking point of “the UW spends $6 billion +, so it’s fine if the state supports it less.”
But even if it's not necessarily a budget cut, we should still be more than a bit worried at this trend.
Federal aid expenditures at UW System
2013-14 $1.697 billion
2014-15 $1.682 billion
2015-16 $1.668 billion
That’s a drop of $29 million on top of the Walker/WisGOP cut of $250 million in General Fund tax dollars in the 2015-17 budget. And given the anti-science, anti-intellectual group in the White House and in the GOP Congress, along with an anti-UW attitude that is causing researchers to leave and take better offers at other schools (and taking their federal grants with them) we should be concerned that this may drop further. So there’s declining support from two big areas of the UW’s funding.
Add in the in-state tuition freeze over the same time period, and there’s little help there either. So one of the few ways the UW System has stayed somewhat afloat in recent years is due to increasing help out of the private sector and other resources.
Gifts, non-federal grants + contracts, UW
2013-14 $517.3 million
2014-15 $541.5 million
2015-16 $575.4 million
But there’s a second side to that type of assistance, and it’s related to who is donating that funding and handing out the contracts. We’ve touched on this a couple of times, particularly when discussing the absurd, right-wing “research” promoted by UW-Madison’s Noah Williams, who is funded through the Juli Plant (“wife of the CEO of W.W.”) Grainger Institute for Economic Research, and in the Bradley Foundation’s sizable amount of “donations” to the UW.
Matt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign mentioned another player in the privatization of UW funding, both politicially, and in outside funding- the Charles Koch Foundation. In addition to their recent 4-year, $1.7 million grant to UW-Stout to “facilitate civil and rational debate and research in the state and beyond on important civil liberty issues guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petitioning the government, and how these liberties relate to institutions and innovation in government, civic, business, social, scientific and religious settings,” Rothschild notes that the Kochs have also given over $311,000 to UW-Madison since 2007, and nearly $50,000 to other UW schools.
And don’t believe for a second that the Kochs and the Bradleys and other oligarchs are giving this money out of the goodness of their hearts with no strings attached. As the UW System gets defunded from other sources, it means the private oligarchs’ voices become more important, and they can slant curriculum and areas of research in directions that they prefer (or not have certain issues be researched, like climate change).
Let’s see if that’s part of the debate that arises in Tuesday’s JFC meeting on the UW System budget. Sure, there aren’t state aid cuts in it (yet), but these new expenditure figures that show the sources of funds indicates the increasing reliance on the private sector and big-money donors is a way to take the UW away from “sifting and winnowing” for society, and instead asking its paymasters “What would you like to see, boss?”
Which is exactly how the ALEC crew wants “education” to work.