A Day in the Life of a Public University Professor in Wisconsin

Carrying on in the state of Scott Walker.
By Kelly Wilz

As of January 2016, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature had cut funding by $1.05 billion for K–12 public schools, $795 million for the University of Wisconsin system, and $203 million for the Wisconsin technical college system.

In a January 16, 2016, opinion piece in the New York Times, Dan Kaufman summed up the concerns of many in the state:

Mr. Walker signed a bill that allowed corporations to donate directly to political parties. On the same day, he signed a law that replaced the state’s nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. . . . Now a new bill . . . threatens to corrupt Wisconsin’s Civil Service. . . . Besides rewriting the hiring process for new employees and the work rules that govern some 30,000 current state workers, the bill highlights Wisconsin’s role as a laboratory for a national conservative strategy to destroy the labor movement. . . . Last year, Mr. Walker signed a “right-to-work” law that weakened private-sector unions. . . . By adding the Civil Service bill, Mr. Walker brings Wisconsin closer to the achievement of a long-sought goal of the libertarian right: universal “at-will employment.”

And, if that weren’t enough, according to Jennifer Schilling at Urban Milwaukee, “Newly released ACT scores show a steep decline in student test results. The drop in average test score from 22.2 to 20.0 coincides with an increase in the number of Wisconsin students taking the exam and comes after several years of Republican budget cuts that have impacted public education in the state.

These scores dropped Wisconsin from 2nd best to 9th worst in the nation (tied with Kentucky) among states where more than half the students took the exam.”

I fear that none of these numbers will matter. I have lost all hope that the dismantling of public education in Wisconsin will come to a halt any time soon.

I’ve never seen this state so divided. I’ve never witnessed such hatred between strangers or those who disagree. Vitriol is directed toward teachers, educators, or, as Governor Walker so calculatedly described us, “the haves.”

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Kelly Wilz is an associate professor in the Department of Communication/Theatre Arts and the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Marshfield/Wood County. Her research and teaching explore the intersections of education, media literacy, gender, politics, democracy, and popular culture.

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