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Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials

August 6, 2018

Wisconsin State Journal, Aug. 5

Offset tuition freeze with higher state funding

Freezing tuition for in-state students at public colleges and universities is welcome help for Wisconsin families. But state leaders need to be realistic. Unless the state can provide better funding, too, the freeze will continue to harm schools.

Costs to run a top-ranked university increase every year, outstripping inflation. Higher education is labor-intensive. Schools must compete for educated workers and pay for benefits such as health care. They also rely on state-of-the-art facilities and technology.

Politicians in both major parties find a tuition freeze appealing because it plays well with the public. But when tuition stays static, leaders need to make up the difference. If in-state students get a break, somebody needs to pay more.

Years of tuition freezes and drooping state aid have stung the University of Wisconsin System. That’s not a prescription for maintaining top universities, especially UW-Madison.

That would bring the total duration for which the freeze had been in place to a decade.

As the State Journal recently reported, the state is providing $2.14 billion to UW System in the current two-year budget, or about $175 million less than in the 2009-11 budget, or $624 million less when adjusted for inflation.

That’s a big bite that cost-saving tricks cannot surmount. UW System has tapped some of its financial reserves to get by, but that can’t continue indefinitely. If we want a top university system preparing our future workforce for quality jobs, continued net cuts won’t cut it.

Even with the freeze, the cost is painfully high for many families. The estimated tuition and fees for a resident student at UW-Madison this fall is $10,534, the same as it’s been since 2013. But that’s hardly the whole expense. After adding in room, board, books, travel and supplies, the tally reaches an average of $26,000.

Students from out-of-state (except Minnesota) are looking at tuition of $36,783, a $2,000 hike from last year — the freeze doesn’t apply to them. Total out-of-state costs run to $52,865 for nine months of education, room and board.

Gov. Scott Walker recently promised four more years of tuition freeze if he’s re-elected, though he is evasive about boosting state aid to compensate.

Democrats in the race for governor also are promoting a tuition freeze. Some of them even propose free tuition for two-year or technical programs. But where will they get the money for that? Leading Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s superintendent of schools and a member of the Board of Regents, is right that technical college students should have some “skin in the game” by paying for some of their education.

Flat tuition will impair the future effectiveness of our universities if it isn’t made up for. Without modern labs and classrooms, reasonable and competitive pay for quality faculty, and enough aid for students, Wisconsin’s higher education system will be unable to train the workforce necessary for the state’s future economic success.

The state has enjoyed higher than expected tax collections in recent years, thanks to a strong economy. More of those dollars need to go to higher education.

Higher education should be at least as high of a priority as tax cuts. Under Gov. Walker, it hasn’t been. Whoever is elected governor this fall must change that.

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The Capital Times, Aug. 6

Scott Walker is the most anti-education governor ever in Wisconsin

The biggest lie that any politician in America is telling in the 2018 election season is Scott Walker’s claim that he is a pro-education governor. And we give high marks to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers for calling Walker out on the issue.

Evers, one of eight contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor, is closing out his primary campaign with an ad that describes Walker as what he is: “the most anti-education governor this state has ever seen.”

That’s not a debatable point. Walker started his governorship by attacking teachers and their unions, and by cutting state support for public schools. He went on to attack the Wisconsin Idea and to appoint members of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents who advanced a wrongheaded merger scheme that will undermine the state’s vital system of two-year and four-year university campuses.

Walker, a career politician who has a long record of bashing public education, is trying to remake his image as he seeks a third term as governor. Part of that remake involves a shameless attempt to suggest that he has an interest in students and teachers, urban and rural schools and the UW System.

But no one should fall for this fantasy. Walker is running for re-election because his presidential ambitions were thwarted at the start of the 2016, when Republicans from other states recognized what a lousy manager the governor was. Donald Trump ripped into Walker during the campaign, saying that under his rival’s attempt at leadership: “Wisconsin’s doing terribly. It’s in turmoil. The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus, and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster.”

We do not often agree with Trump. But he was right about Walker. And nothing has changed.

That is why the state desperately needs a governor who will be a genuine pro-education governor. We think that a number of the candidates could meet that standard and we are not making an endorsement in next Tuesday’s Democratic primary race. But we give Evers credit for using his bully pulpit as the superintendent of public instruction, and as a gubernatorial contender, to counter Walker’s campaign-season lies with the truth.

Scott Walker has been, and remains, the most anti-education governor this state has ever seen.

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The Journal Times of Racine, Aug. 6

Ballplayers and their old, offensive tweets

Social-media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have been around long enough that we’ve reached the point where those who were teenagers when they first became registered users are now young adults.

Some of those young adults are famous for being professional baseball players.

Some of that last group of young adults posted some things on social media years ago that they now regret.

Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader sent out some racist and homophobic tweets when he was a teenager, as did Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner. Hader’s tweets were recirculated during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in which he was a pitcher; Newcomb’s came to light later in July after he came within one strike of a no-hitter.

All three issued statements, either personally or through their respective teams, to apologize, express regret and declare that they’ve changed and matured since high school.

The tweets were offensive and unacceptable.

That being said, it’s important to add some context to our condemnation of the players’ statements.

Major League Baseball players in their 20s have literally grown up with social media. Hader, for example, is 24, meaning he was born in 1994, meaning he was 14 in 2008, roughly the time that Facebook began to expand well beyond college campuses and began its ascent to having 1.8 billion users worldwide. Twitter launched in 2006 and had 100 million users by 2012 (it had 335 million users in July 2018).

Hader, Newcomb and Turner used Twitter like the teenagers they were. That’s not to excuse the offensive things they tweeted, but it does provide an explanation: Teenagers are figuring out their place in the world, and sometimes that means they say or do — or post on social media — things they regret later.

Tellingly, in the case of Hader, he had the support of his teammates, and specifically his teammates of color, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“He’s young; we all say some crazy stuff when we’re young,” said Lorenzo Cain, who is a black man, the team’s starting centerfielder and a fellow member of the National League All-Star team. “At the end of the day, we’ve all said crazy stuff growing up, even when we’re 17, 18 years old. If we could follow each other around with a recorder all day, I’m sure we’ve all said some dumb stuff.”

Another African-American teammate, All-Star reliever Jeremy Jeffress, told Yahoo Sports: “He made a mistake when he was younger. Sometimes you’ve got to live with your past. That’s not him ... he’s a great guy.”

Another Brewers All-Star, infielder Jesus Aguilar, a native of Venezuela, tweeted his support for Hader on July 11, saying he “obviously” is not a racist. “He made a mistake 7 years ago. He admitted, he apologized and most important: He learned from it.”

In a clubhouse interview after the All-Star Game, Hader said: “I was young, immature and stupid. There’s no excuses for what was said. It was something that happened when I was 17 years old, and as a child I was immature and obviously did some things that were inexcusable. That doesn’t reflect on who I am as a person today.”

Hader, Turner and Newcomb are obligated to answer for the offensive comments they posted when they were teenagers, in part because those comments were still accessible after they became famous.

If Turner and Newcomb demonstrate the same strength of character that Hader has shown in repudiating the offensive remarks of their youth, demonstrate that they are not the immature young men on display in those tweets, they can serve as a positive example to young and old alike.

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