Gov. Walker To Cut $300 Million From Universities To Build Basketball Arena

Scott Walker—the Republican Governor of Wisconsin—is set to submit a devastating new budget on Tuesday that will gut the Dairy State’s public university system over a two-year period to the tune of about $300 million. A coalition of students, professors, and state legislators are already gathering to fight this plan, which ThinkProgress is calling the “deepest cut in state history.”

In a recent chat Charlie Sykes, a right-wing radio personality, Walker stated:

Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work.

So, he’s asking for more courses to be taught and more work to be done on less money? That makes perfect sense.

If this didn’t sound ridiculous enough, Walker is also proposing a new $500 million arena in Milwaukee. This would be largely paid for by, you guessed it, the taxpayers.

Walker plans for Wisconsin to take out $200 million in bonds with contributions from Milwaukee city and county, as well as “some private funding” from the Milwaukee Bucks’ owners. Maybe it’s time for the billionaires who own the Bucks, Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, to contribute more with less resources.

The fact that Walker wants to increase funding for professional sports while at the same time telling universities to do more with less has infuriated students such as Eleni Schirmer, co-president of the UW graduate student worker’s union, who stated:

It shows a fair amount of ignorance about what happens at a university. He’s not telling the Bucks: ‘You should become an actually interesting team so people will watch your games.’

Schirmer went on to add:

As TAs, we see the burdens on undergrads. We see that first-time college students’ acceptance rates are declining, that the number of students of color is declining. It changes the texture of the university.

Walker, in exchange for budget cuts, is offering the University of Wisconsin-Madison more say in employee wages and benefits. This is almost exactly what he proposed  in 2011, except it costs about $50 million more, and puts a tuition freeze in place for years to come. As a result, schools will have a difficult time recouping lost funding, and students could be staring down a massive hike in tuition fees when the freeze is lifted in two-years.

Wisconsin students will coalesce in February to petition state lawmakers to reject Gov. Walker’s proposal. One of those students, Amanda McGovern—the President of the United Council of UW Students told ThinkProgress:

We’re going to show the UW Board of Regents and the legislators that students actually care about this. Our faculty are already talking about resigning, and we’ll lose the quality of their teaching which will then hurt the quality of a UW degree. Programs are already being cut from some of our four-year institutions while students are still enrolled in them. And in popular programs like Agriculture and Engineering, the schools are accepting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition, leaving some Wisconsin students unable to get those degrees that can really move them forward. It’s terrifying.

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