Wisconsin unions Monday are once again attacking Republican Gov. Scott Walker, this time over a proposed budget that may result in cuts to tenure for state college professors.
With the upcoming budget session, the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee is expected to propose a plan to reform the University of Wisconsin System. While it is not yet finalized, unions warn the plan will cut $250 million in funding and will remove academic protections for professors such as teacher tenure.
This latest union battles comes at the heels of a likely announcement Walker will run for president. With his previous labor reforms, unions will likely become one of his main advisories.
“Today’s move by JFC Republicans to pay for Scott Walker’s tax breaks for his wealthy donors by slashing public education is shameful,” Eleni Schirmer, co-president of the Teaching Assistants’ Association, said in a statement. “These cuts will devastate a UW System that has already been cut to the bone and beyond in previous years.”
Richard Leson, an associate professor of art history and president of Local 3535 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), also argues the plan will have devastating consequences.
“The UW System has a long, rich tradition of encouraging research and learning free from political pressure, serving as a model for the rest of the country,” Leson said in a statement. “Our strong history of academic freedom through faculty tenure has protected education in the UW System from political conflict and corruption for decades, ensuring that higher learning in Wisconsin can pursue the truth wherever it might lead.”
A spokesman for Joint Finance Committee, however, notes the plan is not set in stone. The spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation that the plan still needs to be finalized by the committee after which point it will move onto the Senate and House. The plan could be amended by lawmakers in either chamber. If it passes the legislature, it will then be up to Walker to decide whether to sign it into law but the end result may look drastically different from the original plan.
As the budget plan is written at the moment, it doesn’t even remove tenure like some unions are claiming. As the committee spokesman detailed, the proposal only transfers authority on tenure to the Board of Regents which is already in charge overseeing community colleges in the state. The board could cut tenure, keep it the same or change it in other ways.
“In order to create an authority, the Governor’s original budget proposal removed all references to tenure and shared governance state statute in order to allow for the proposed authority to create its own policies,” Laurel Patrick, press secretary for Walker, told TheDCNF. “This would allow the UW Board of Regents to address the issue of tenure going forward.”
Though unions are blaming Walker, the proposed budget was approved by members of the committee and was not proposed by the governor. Walker, though, has become a go to target for unions because of his efforts to reform labor policy in the state during his first term.
The reforms, known as Act 10, significantly changed the collective bargaining process for most public employees within the state. It also required public unions to hold a renewal vote every couple of years to determine if workers still wanted them. Labor unions and supporters adamantly opposed the law and even tried to get Walker thrown out of office.
Republicans in the legislature went a step further in the past year when they passed a law which banned mandatory union dues as a condition of employment. Though Walker wasn’t directly involved in creating the measure, unions blamed him anyways.
“It’s worth noting that the reforms included in Act 10 eliminated requirements for seniority and tenure in schools,” Patrick continued. “Many of the critics claiming these changes will cause harm are the same types of voices who said public education would be harmed because of our Act 10 reforms. Today, graduation rates are up, third grade reading scores are up, and ACT scores are second best in the country.”
AFT did not respond to a request for comment from TheDCNF.
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