Op Ed

How Walker Slashed Tech College Funding

“Soaring” funding reported is wrong: it’s actually declined significantly.

By - Feb 9th, 2018 01:46 pm
Milwaukee Area Technical College. Photo by Carl Baehr.

Milwaukee Area Technical College. Photo by Carl Baehr.

A recent column in Urban Milwaukee by Steve Walters reported that state support for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) has “soared” by 281 percent since Scott Walker was elected.

That figure is dead wrong. The state’s investment in technical college education has actually plummeted during Gov. Walker’s time in power despite a looming skilled labor shortage.

In his first budget (2011-2012) Walker slashed Wisconsin Technical College funding by $71.6 million, a 30 percent cut, reducing state support (General Purpose Revenue) for all sixteen technical colleges to only $83.5 million. That was actually less total dollars than the state invested in the WTCS 23 years earlier in 1988/89.

Funding remained flat until 2015 when, during his re-election campaign, Walker restored a mere $5 million of the $71.6 million he had previously cut. That was only 6.9 percent of what Walker had cut just four years before!

Since then, the state’s investment in technical colleges has remained flat at the $88.5 million according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

So rather than the “soaring” increases Walters reported, Wisconsin’s technical colleges, one of the state’s only sources of  skilled and technical labor, were still $66 million in the hole from when Walker took the oath of office.

How could Walters be so wrong in his reporting? He confused state dollars devoted to property tax relief with an investment in the WTCS, a mistake he acknowledged after I sent him documentation.

Here are the facts:

In the 2013-2015 budget Republican majorities changed the WTCS funding model, shifting support from local property taxes to the state. This resulted in $406 million going to tech colleges from the state to reduce property taxes.

But here’s the crucial fact that Walters missed: technical colleges did not get a single, additional new dollar from this change; no more funds for training nurses, welders, machinists, IT security specialists, or firefighters. No more money for counselors or support services.

Walker’s record on tech college funding is abysmal, an overall cut of $65.6 million as governor, without figuring inflation, which would make his record worse.

While Walker has failed to invest in Wisconsin’s workforce, he has allocated a million dollars to recruit millennials from Chicago and has proposed spending another $7 million to expand those recruitment efforts to Detroit and Minnesota. He has allocated $3 billion to Foxconn, the largest subsidy to a foreign corporation in the nation’s history.

Instead of spending scarce taxpayer dollars on expensive and discredited smokestack chasing and marketing schemes, why not invest in Wisconsin’s workers?

Michael Rosen is a former Wisconsin Technical College System state board member and retired Milwaukee Area Technical College economics instructor.

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

14 thoughts on “Op Ed: How Walker Slashed Tech College Funding”

  1. Terry says:

    Excellent reporting by Michael Rosen. Thank you for correcting this mistake. As for Career Politician Scott Walker…well why would he invest in skilled labor in the state when he can just give 4.5 billion of taxpayers’ money away in corporate welfare to a Taiwainese company and then sell off the rest of the state and natural reources to the highest corporate bidders? It’s much easier! There is a reason why Walker’s Wississippi is dead last in entrepreneurship afterall!

    Dump Walker 2018

  2. SD says:

    The WCTS is not hurting. Walk around one of their campuses and see all the money spent on unnecessary remodeling and new computers for computer labs that sit empty. They remodel, then remodel again, just to use up the money they have been allotted. It seems like more money goes for enhancements to buildings than is spent on a disappearing student body.

    Enrollment is way down as it is in a good economy. If and when the economy tanks again, enrollment will increase as people realize they can’t afford to go to a four-year university and they settle for a technical education.

    Perhaps Walker cut their budget, but it was a pretty fat budget from the start. The instructors make more money than university professors, plus they have great benefits. Employees complain about having to contribute to their pension. Plus, the System is paying employees off for retiring early and for health care costs.

    No sympathy from me.

  3. Rita says:

    Wow! Great piece and follow up by Michael Rosen. Thank you for setting the record straight! This is what a dedicated public servant, AND democracy look like! 😉

  4. Eric J. says:

    SD : Cutting funding reduces the number of class sections available to students.That in turn means it may take longer for a student in a program to graduate . Is that what you want ” going forward”.
    -This is just more of Walker bragging about school spending increases in an election year without the real context of his pat actions.
    -If three years ago I cut your salary from $3 /hr to $1/hr and then gave you a .50 cent raise that would look pretty good by percentage .Overall you’re still screwed.
    -Class tuition in tech schools is not inexpensive.
    -Care to provide a source for your declining enrollment claim?
    -I label your comments Fake News .

  5. Troll says:

    Walker cut 30 percent in his first budget..could that be asking public employees contribute to their pensions and medical. Act 10 has been a winning issue since 2010 none of the 2018 Democratic governor candidates bring it up on the stump.

  6. PMD says:

    Troll how do you possibly know what all 75 of the Democratic candidates for governor are saying on the campaign trail? Not to mention a whole two seconds on Google says you are wrong as it was discussed by the candidates within the last week.

  7. PMD says:

    Troll is just following the lead of his hero, who isn’t speaking if he isn’t lying (or defending people who beat women).

  8. Troll says:

    PMD and Casper, I respect you and your feelings that taxpayers should shoulder the burden of all medical and pension obligations of public workers. I hope your candidate runs on it. It is a 60-40 issue and if it is brought up in a general election your candidate is toast. If public employees believe in their union cause why did two thirds elect to not pay dues.

  9. PMD says:

    Is that how you acknowledge being totally wrong troll? Your alleged concern for taxpayers would carry more weight if you didn’t lie all the time and actually maintained a consistent ideology as opposed to trolling all the time.

  10. John Casper says:


    Your support for socialism for the elites is un-American.

  11. Troll says:

    Socialism for the elites, really two words GE +Obama. The CEO of GE Jeff Inmelt, biught into whatever Obama was offering tax credits for. GE was there. Soar panels, wind turbines, biomedicine, over the Obama years GE paid little to nothing in federal taxes. After Obama, GE has made no money for its share holders. Zombie company.

  12. John Casper says:


    Glad you understand that the elites don’t invest in the real economy, the part that makes stuff, the part that matters.

    What positives do you see from allowing them to loot the wealth from FIRE (Finance, Insurance Real Estate) markets?

    The Dow Jones was around 16,000 when Trump was inaugurated. It’s still north of 26,000.


    In light of that staggering growth, why do you want to cut compensation for police officers, firefighters, and the rest of the public sector workers?

    Were you opposed to the GOP tax cuts? If not, please explain why you supported those tax cuts?

    What’s your opposition to “biomedicine?”

  13. Jennifer Stead says:

    The bargain some of us public tech school workers choose was if we wanted a raise as wages or contributions to health insurance/retirement. We should have taken the wage raise instead. Then, we would have already been paying our health and retirement visible and since those were what was cut not wages, we would have lost not a penny. Instead, my first post act 10 take home paycheck was 11% smaller. It was even harder to afford my one bedroom apartment and used car. I was going to continue to not be able to afford a house or children. I gave up on that completely. We didn’t all make as much money as we were demonized. Many of us lost our jobs.

    Tech school teachers make more than university professors because you have to pay them as well as highly experienced, skilled tradespeople, because that’s what they are. Rare. Expensive. That’s just what you have to pay or they won’t leave their other opportunities.

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