Posted by: Opey | July 13, 2007

Fund UW, Period!

I was going to write about this in my Enough is Enough segment yesterday, but I believe certain types of stupidity deserves a post all its own. Monday, the WI State Assembly, which is Republican-led, released their budget for the state in which the UW System faces $100 million worth of cuts over two years. I am generally in favor of a largely-balanced budget, tight fiscal policy and many other measures of conservative budgetary policy, but this is a poor idea. It is being widely said that this budget proposal is mostly a benchmark that has been set to lay down the negotiating position of the Assembly against the State Senate. But, by setting their initial move so far out, even a compromise will probably still be largely unacceptable. There is also no room for hiking tuition to cover those cuts because the budget also calls for a cap on tuition increases. Right now most campuses in the system are facing growing problems that signal rough seas ahead. Most notably, UW-Madison, the supposed “flagship” of the system, has begun to have problems holding on to some professors. In the Political Science department alone there were more than a half dozen loses (some to retirement and some to other schools). How is the university expected to maintain its ability to provide one of the finest educations in the country if they are losing professors left and right. Now, there is also concern over financial aid for current incoming students due to the budget. Even though the budget is still in the negotiation phase, the fight has still prompted some state legislators to put a freeze on all state financial aid and grant applications.  This is horrible timing for thousands of students.  They have been accepted to schools across the state and were counting on help from the state to be able to pay for the education they deserve.  Now, they could be left out in the cold.  I understand that this budget proposal was a “message” of sorts and that in and amongst itself is not a bad thing.  But, there are other items to use as a tool in this way.  When will people learn to look beyond the present and immediate future and look to the horizon.  Funding of education realizes a majority of its benefits down the road and not in the short term.  But, when those benefits do arrive, they are long term and often have a augmenting effect on all sectors of the state.  Well, let’s put that logic to work.  Even if we need to tighten our belts in other areas for a while, we need to adequately fund high school and post-secondary education now.  We need to attract the best teachers and professors to the state and hold on to the ones we have now.  We need to promote research activities that will provide benefits to the economy of WI.  We need to increase financial aid to allow for tremendously talented students to attend a school where their knowledge can grow and develop further.  We will see some immediate benefits, but imagine the possibilities down the road.  We could see increased economic activity, more money from research activities, a higher-income tax bases, and a better populace to lead us into the future.

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