Tag Archives: board of regents

Walker releases 82 pages of records following court order

Gov. Scott Walker released 82 pages of records he wanted to keep secret after a judge ordered them to be made public Friday.

The records were related to Walker’s proposal in 2015 to change the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement known as the “Wisconsin Idea.” He released the emails and attachments just before 5 p.m. Friday at the beginning of a three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit a year ago against Walker, saying he was illegally withholding records related to the creation of the proposal to refocus the “Wisconsin Idea” on career readiness instead of public service and seeking a broader truth. He later backed down from the proposal after a public backlash, saying it was a mistake.

Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith, in ruling against Walker on Friday, rejected the Republican’s argument that he could withhold the records because they were part of a “deliberative process.” Smith said no such ruling exists in Wisconsin state law.

Before the judge’s ruling, Walker wrote a tweet poking fun at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over questions related to her official emails when she was secretary of state.

“I have turned over all my emails. I have been incredibly open about doing that,” Walker said, in an apparent reference to email disclosures he made related to a pair of investigations into his time as Milwaukee County executive and his recall election campaign.

Smith ruled Friday that Walker wrongly withheld 12 email exchanges and six attachments, but that three attachments were properly withheld. But for the majority of the material, Smith said that Walker’s concerns over releasing the records did not outweigh the public’s interest in disclosure.

“Wisconsin Open Records Law has long-held that the public interest in disclosure — the right of the people of Wisconsin to know what their government is doing — is a strong presumption for every record,” Smith wrote.

Brendan Fischer, attorney for the group that sued, praised the ruling for striking down Walker’s attempt to create a “deliberative process” exemption to the open records law.

The emails reveal conversations among Walker’s staff, bill drafters and others in his administration working on the budget mostly in late 2014 and early 2015. One document, which includes comments from unnamed UW officials to a draft of the governor’s proposal, shows that they suggested to Walker’s administration that the mission statement not be changed.

“The Legislature has been credited with crafting careful and wonderfully descriptive language to create the System,” the UW comments said. “The language is frequently quoted. If the purpose of the System is largely unchanged, this language should remain unchanged as well.”

But in a column labeled “SBO Decision,” referring to Walker’s budget office, the request from UW is marked as denied.

“The Gov requested a simplified and clearer mission and purpose statements,” the document said. “The Board of Regents is free to adopt any additional statements of mission or purpose.”

Walker last year said it was a “mistake someone made” and a “matter of confusion” to assume that his desire to add career readiness to the mission statement meant to also drop references to public service and seeking a broader truth.

The prospect of dropping the “Wisconsin Idea,” a cherished part of the university’s history, sparked an immediate and intense backlash when the Center for Media and Democracy first spotted it in the budget.

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer.


Walker’s attack on higher-ed seen as ‘consequential, signal event’ by nation’s academics

Four years after taking union rights away from teachers and other public workers in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker now wants to strip job protections for University of Wisconsin professors in a move he likens to the 2011 law that made him a national figure and set up his expected presidential run.

Eliminating tenure in state law, as Walker proposed in January and a Republican-controlled legislative committee approved earlier this month, is part of a larger overhaul of higher education policy that he is talking about to Republican voters around the country.

Walker and Republican backers defend his higher education proposal as empowering university leaders to be more like a business and nimble in how they govern. University professors and their supporters, both in Wisconsin and nationally, are raising alarms that it’s an attack on academic freedom that could gain momentum in other states.

“Within the higher ed universe, this is being seen as an extremely consequential, signal event,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

A companion effort would take from professors and staff certain decision-making powers about campus issues including curriculum, research and faculty status. Combined with ending tenure in state law, the higher education proposal would be the first of its kind in the country, Nassirian said.

“Obviously the faculty are opposed, but there are plenty of folks who look at it and believe this, in fact, is the future,” Nassirian said, citing the increasing pressure on universities to be more efficient in light of escalating tuition costs. “And it may be.”

Wisconsin faculty members are sounding alarms that the changes will lead to a flood of departures for universities with stronger tenure. A petition signed by more than 450 of the university’s award-winning researchers asked lawmakers to reconsider.

More than a dozen faculty members came to a Board of Regents meeting with tape over their mouths, holding signs of protest. That’s a far cry from the 2011 protests at the state Capitol that grew to as many as 100,000 people when Walker went after public workers’ union protections.

Still, Walker openly makes comparisons. This is “Act 10 for the university,” he says, invoking the title of the union law.

Opponents say protests could grow, and extend beyond Wisconsin. Henry Reichman, vice president of the American Association of University Professors and chairman of its committee on academic freedom and tenure, said the proposed changes in Wisconsin could embolden faculty both there and around the country to become more organized as Walker mounts his expected run for the Republican nomination.

“One message to higher ed would be you really don’t want to support Scott Walker for president because if he can do it in Wisconsin, he will do it everywhere,” Reichman said.

Walker, who attended Marquette University but did not graduate, initially proposed cutting the university’s state aid by 13 percent, or $300 million. Budget writers in the Legislature have reduced the proposed cut to $250 million, while still voting to eliminate tenure in state law, leaving it up to the university’s regents to set a policy as is done in every other state.

But the Legislature’s budget committee went even further, proposing to change the law to make it easier to fire those with tenure. Now, tenured faculty members can only be fired for just cause or if there’s a financial emergency. Under the new provisions, the administration could fire them “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.”

The Legislature is expected to vote on the proposals this month or next, when passing a state budget. Walker has been campaigning for the GOP nomination for months, in all but name, but says he won’t announce his decision until the budget is passed.

In taking tenure out of state law, the legislation would let the Board of Regents set its own policy on that matter. But with 16 of the 18 regents appointed by the governor, taken together with the broader authority under state law to fire faculty, opponents of the move say the resulting policy is bound to be feckless.

“Tenure will be gone as we know it and I think it’s a step backward for our relationship with faculty members,” said Tony Evers, who serves on the Board of Regents in his capacity as state superintendent. Evers fought against Walker’s union restrictions against teachers and other public workers four years ago and signed the petition that led to the 2012 statewide vote over recalling Walker from office. Walker won that vote.

Walker appoints son of right-wing Bradley Foundation president to UW Board of Regents

Gov. Scott Walker has appointed the son of a president of a foundation that supports tea party causes to the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. The board oversees the University of Wisconsin system, setting policies and approving budgets, among other vital regulatory duties.

Walker appointed Mike M. Grebe, son of Michael W. Grebe, president and chief executive of the Bradley Foundation, to the board. The foundation is an essential part of Walker’s “brain trust.” It’s poured millions into promoting such right-wing policies as busting unions, expanding voucher schools and eliminating social welfare programs.

In addition to his association with the Bradley Foundation, Grebe also has served as chairman of Walker’s campaign.

Walker also has appointed Jim Troupis, an attorney who often works for the GOP, as a Dane County circuit judge. The governor says Troupis will fill a seat previously held by Judge John C. Albert, who has retired. Troupis will serve until August 2016.

Walker proposes $300-million cut, more freedom to UW system

Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to give the University of Wisconsin System more freedom would allow it to impose unchecked tuition increases that could price students out of college, one of the system’s toughest critics and student leaders said.

Walker’s proposal would strip the system of $300 million in funding — in addition to the $250 million that the governor slashed from the system four years ago. In exchange, he would give more autonomy to the governor-appointed Board of Regents, which oversees the system’s 26 campuses, on a wide range of issues, including raising tuition without Legislative approval starting in 2017.

Walker, who’s mulling a 2016 presidential bid, proposed the plan as he struggles to resolve a projected $2 billion deficit in the 2015-2017 budget. The deficit undermines his presidential campaign boasts that he balanced Wisconsin’s budget after inheriting a $3-billion projected deficit.

wThe Associated Students of Madison, UW-Madison’s student government organization, issued a statement saying tuition increases would be inevitable under Walker’s plan.

UW System administration needs to assure students … that the … institutions will not increase tuition as a way to absorb these cuts on the backs of students after this budget,” ASM vice chair Derek Field said.

UW System President Ray Cross has acknowledged each institution will feel the $300 million cut but contends more autonomy is an opportunity to operate more efficiently. System leaders believe it’s in no one’s interest to “simply jack up” tuition, Cross said in an email to The Associated Press.

Under the plan, system leaders would control employee salaries, tenure and procurement contracts, among other things. Future state funding would come through a block grant fueled by sales tax revenue with annual increases tied to inflation. Right now, the state money that goes to the system is a combination of different taxes. The governor and Legislature set the payout amount during budget negotiations every two years.

Walker wants to keep a tuition freeze that the Legislature imposed last year in place until 2017. Then lawmakers would have no ability to limit increases. The system had raised tuition 5.5 percent each of the six years leading up to the freeze.