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Walker’s budget: success or failure?: Two perspectives

Erik Dorn and Tyler Smith, Opinion Writers
March 27, 2013
Filed under Opinion, Top Stories

He Walks the Walk When It Comes Down to Tough Decisions

By: Eric Dorn

Gov. Scott Walker understands how to successfully and responsibly run a state.

With the release of his 2013-15 budget proposal for Wisconsin Feb. 20, he not only proved he’s the right man for the job, but the man Wisconsin desperately needs.

When Walker took office in 2011, he inherited a roughly $3 billion budget shortfall from his predecessor Jim Doyle, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a nonpartisan service agency of the Wisconsin Legislature. Walker attacked the problem by making deep cuts to education, local governments and other programs.

He forced public workers to pay more for health insurance and pension benefits, which, in my opinion, should have always been in place. It pretty much ended workers’ collective bargaining rights, which led to an unsuccessful attempt to recall him last year — thank God.

This is a hard concept for a lot of people to understand, but public workers aren’t entitled to something just because they have gotten accustomed to receiving it. If my budget shrunk because of some other unforeseen problem, I wouldn’t be entitled to golf every week because it’s what I’ve been accustomed to doing. I would give it up because I wouldn’t be able to afford it any longer. It works the same way with a government’s budget. When there’s no money to finance everything, cuts to entitlements or certain programs have to be made in order to restore balance.

This may come as a shock to some politicians, but balanced budgets are necessary for families, businesses and, yes, even the government. This is something Walker understands. He has made the hard, but necessary cuts in order to get the state back in black.

Now that Wisconsin will be seeing a surplus that’s estimated to grow to $484 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, it makes it easier for Walker to follow through with the promises to cut income taxes while also increasing spending on K-12 schools. Walker’s newest proposal will provide UW System schools with at least $181 million in financial aid.

According to the bill, the Board of Regents of the UW System is directed to award grants to UW institutions to provide funding for economic development programs, programs that develop an educated and skilled workforce, and programs that improve affordability of postsecondary education for resident undergraduates.

During his speech Walker said he will be financing the state’s biggest areas of need with the available surplus.

“This allows us to invest in our priorities,” Walker said, “priorities I’ve talked about in every corner of our state over the past few months: creating jobs, developing the workforce, transforming education, reforming government and investing in our infrastructure.”

Walker is doing something I really like. Instead of investing in entitlement programs with the surplus, he’s investing the money in programs that help people who want to better themselves by getting the education and jobs needed to live the American dream.

This is what happens when a surplus is present. Walker is able to direct money where it needs to be spent. Some things are necessary, like repairing roads and bridges, and some things are simply to help those who need it. When a government has to operate under a deficit, they cannot and should not be giving money to programs like the UW System for grants.

Love him or hate him, Walker is the right man for the job. There isn’t a single governor in the U.S. who has the gall to do the things Walker has done in order to right the wrong done by so many Wisconsin governors before him. It can hurt to see programs get cut, but it’s necessary. Walker’s budget will continue to move Wisconsin forward. Instead of stealing from our children by borrowing money, he is investing in them.

I applaud Walker for his bold leadership and decision making during his term. Wisconsin is finally moving forward by making the tough decisions necessary to put our state back on solid financial ground. I hope Walker throws his hat in the ring in 2016. Our nation desperately needs a man who’s willing to take a stand against wasteful spending and make the cuts necessary to bring the American dream back to those willing to work for it.

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Walker Doesn’t Understand that We’re Not Just Statistics

By: Tyler Smith

Gov. Scott Walker doesn’t have Wisconsin’s best interest in mind when it comes to education. He’s too focused on performance on paper rather than the bigger picture for students and Wisconsin schools. Walker needs a reality check.

According to the Badger Herald, Walker originally cut $250 million from the UW school system in his last budget proposal, something that will barely be made up for in his latest one. Walker is giving back $181 million to UW schools, $20 million of which is to go to new economic development programs and $2 million to the new flexible option online degree program.

According to Dan Simmons, writer for the Wisconsin State Journal, this is being welcomed by UW System President Kevin Reilly.

Simmons said funding will help with courses and programs that improve economic development and student employment.

This sounds great on paper, but this new funding being proposed comes shortly after more than a year of controversy following the original cuts and a failed recall effort. In my eyes, this sudden boost in funding after such a drastic cut is more like a bone being thrown back to the system for appeasement, not a true attempt to do what’s best for students.

I’m reminded of the tactics of oil companies and rising gas prices. We all go to the pump infuriated that the cost of fuel has risen drastically. When we finally see it dwindle back down a few cents we’re thrilled, never mind the fact that the price is still ridiculously steep.

Apart from the aid being given to the UW System, Wisconsin Technical Colleges would receive $5 million initially and then have 10 percent of their general state aid tied to performance reviews, Simmons said. Another aspect of the budget, though, would remove the 5.5 percent tuition increase cap from the UW System, Rocha said. This could pose an issue for UW Students.

The $181 million Walker plans to invest in the UW System will supposedly lead to a rise in tuition that may be more modest, Rocha said. However, even a small rise in tuition is still an additional — and significant — cost for students. Furthermore, the lack of a tuition cap could give the Board of Regents the power to raise tuition even higher, similar to 2005 when it increased by more than 15 percent. To add insult to injury, Walker may not even be fully backed by his own political party.

According to Associate Press writer Scott Bauer, Republican senators are not supporting Walker on his budget plan for K-12 education. They’re not satisfied with Walker’s plan for vouchers or charter schools stating.

Tamarine Cornelius and Jon Peacock of the Wisconsin Budget said Walker’s budget would provide $73 million to expand the Parental Choice Program that allows lower income families to send their students to private schools through publicly-funded vouchers. According to Cornelius and Peacock, Milwaukee Public Schools and the Racine Unified School District are the only two districts currently enrolled in this program.

This budget will also offer $129 million during the next two years to public schools, Cornelius and Peacock said. However, the money may not matter as much since the revenue limit will remain the same. Rather, schools may not be able to increase their overall budget level and property taxes would have to be cut as well just to stay under a fixed revenue limit, Cornelius and Peacock said.

According to Wisconsin State Journal writer Matthew DeFour in his article “K-12 Education Budget Would Target How Schools Perform,” $24 million would go to schools ranking in the top two tiers of a new report card system for Wisconsin.

“Another $30 million would be available to schools that improve their report card score by at least three points over the prior year,” DeFour said.

Cory Vandertie, the principal for Eisenhower Elementary in Green Bay, doesn’t feel this system will prove fruitful for his school.

More than 90 percent of the student populace at Eisenhower is enrolled in ELL, the English Language Learner program, Vandertie said. Vandertie and Eisenhower second grade teacher Zack Bennet are both concerned that Walker’s focus for this $24 million funding for school performance would primarily be based on just test and achievement scores.

Testing kids in a language they don’t speak fluently isn’t an effective way to track their learning. It’s also not a fair way to determine a school’s funding.

Eisenhower has a low achievement score, but it also has a growth score of more than 20 points over the state average, Vandertie said.

“I think that Walker is making the assumption that every single student population in every building is the same,” Vandertie said.

Students at Eisenhower are generally taught in a bilingual setting, gaining predominant exposure to English around third grade and learning in both Spanish and English in fifth grade, he said.

According to Vandertie, more than 4,100 students are enrolled in ELL, speaking more than 40 native languages within Green Bay. Last year, 706 of those students left with English proficiency.

When it comes to Walker’s budget proposal, neither Vandertie nor Bennett agree with the push to use the voucher program to push these very kids into charter or private schools.

DeFour said $117.2 million would be used to expand both the voucher program and charter schools. According to Bennett, charter schools have little accountability for teaching when compared to public schools. Furthermore, since its early use in the ‘90s, the voucher program has seen no significant change or turnaround, Vandertie said.

“If Milwaukee schools are better with vouchers, why are they still struggling?” Vandertie said.

Simply offering more vouchers as a secondary option for students and their families is not the same as bolstering or improving education as a whole. Improving public schools should be the higher focus for K-12. Walker is out of touch with education as a whole.

He’s merely a businessman who wants to throw students a bone to shut them up while pushing for what he believes to be better performance numbers and job placement.

This is the same man who originally cut more than $250 million from the UW System and currently wants to underscore K-12 public schooling by giving funding with a fixed revenue limit. How does this help a public school when it needs to have its budget further analyzed to even accept the funding?

Furthermore, the answer to rising tuitions in colleges isn’t removing the tuition cap altogether, thus allowing for any percentage increase in costs for students to be implemented.

I want the focus of school funding to be on my own education and that of my future children, not just numbers on paper.

We are not statistics, and I don’t trust that Walker won’t turn and make another round of cuts to higher and lower education.