Category: The state

August Board of Regents Meeting

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will meet via teleconference Thursday, August 20. Registration to watch the public portions of the meeting is here. The full agenda is here.

Regents begin at 8:45 am with committee meetings:

  • The Business and Finance Committee will consider approval of several contracts and agreements and hear reports on shared services, information security, and state and federal COVID-19 assistance.
  • The Education Committee will consider several new programs, including three at UW-Madison — a Master of Science in Financial Economics, a Master of Science in Information and an Educational Specialist in School Psychology. The committee will also vote on the temporary suspension of the SAT/ACT requirement at UW-Madison
  • The Audit Committee will hear the FY21 Audit Plan Progress Report along with summarized recent audits.
  • The Capital Planning and Budget Committee will consider a renovation project at UW-Stout and hear reports on capital projects and action by the State Building Commission.
  • The Research, Economic Development, and Innovation Committee will hear a report on supporting Wisconsin businesses during the pandemic from Interim President Tommy Thompson and receive updates on the economic impact of COVID-19 in northern Wisconsin and the UW-Green Bay water sciences program.

The full board meets at 12:45 pm. After hearing reports from Regent President Andrew Petersen and Interim President Tommy Thompson, the board will consider the 2021-23 operating budget and capital budget requests. Interim President Thompson announced details about the request Tuesday.

The operating budget proposal — a 3.5 percent increase over the biennium — features ten key initiatives. The cornerstone of the plan is a systemwide free tuition program, the Wisconsin Tuition Promise, for Wisconsin families earning less than $60,000 annually. The proposal extends Bucky’s Tuition Promise, a UW-Madison program created in 2018, to all UW System universities.

Other funding priorities include student loan forgiveness programs for state teachers, 20 new UW-Madison Division of Extension county-based agriculture positions, and support for the Freshwater Collaborative.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s Remarks to Downtown Madison Rotary

UW-Madison Chancellor
Rebecca Blank

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank told members of Downtown Madison Rotary today that the university faces unprecedented financial losses due to COVID-19. Blank said that current projections show a loss of $150 million, but the loss will grow if fewer students enroll when classes resume in September.

Blank noted that UW System already took almost two-thirds of the $70 million cut ordered by Governor Evers earlier this spring and cautioned that against a similar cut this fiscal year:

You cannot cut the budget on the back of higher education in this state. That will be a disaster for the state in the long run…We are arguing strongly that we’ve already given at the office and we should have a lower percentage in this next round, but we’ll see what happens.

Senate District 26 Candidate Questionnaire

Earlier this year, State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison, the longest serving state legislator in the country, announced he would not run for re-election. Seven Democratic candidates are on the August 11 primary ballot and the winner is almost certain to take office in January since no Republican will be on the November ballot.

These candidates will be on the ballot next month:

  • Brian Benford
  • William Henry Davis III
  • Nada Elmikashfi
  • John Imes
  • Amani Latimer-Burris
  • Aisha Moe
  • Kelda Roys

PROFS recently reached out to the candidates with a questionnaire and request for video statement. Elmikashfi, Imes and Roys responded and their responses follow in individual posts.

Kelda Roys Responses

What are your goals for your first term in office should you be elected?

Before taking office, my first goal is to build a stronger Democratic caucus in the state legislature by campaigning and fundraising for Democrats across the state, so that we can successfully pass legislation. While detailed policy goals can be found on my website, www.keldaroys.com, the my key priorities will be to help our state recover from the COVID health and economic crisis, expand healthcare access, adequately fund Wisconsin’s public schools and public higher education system, address the climate crisis, and pass meaningful criminal justice reform. 

Please describe your qualifications and what sets you apart from your fellow candidates. 

My experience sets me apart. I don’t just have progressive values — I have spent my career turning those values into meaningful policy changes. I served in the State Assembly from 2009-2013, and was the Democratic Caucus Chair in my second term. During that time, I helped expand BadgerCare to 80,000 Wisconsinites, and authored legislation on many issues, from banning BPA to equal pay to protecting the right to vote.

Even before being elected to the legislature, I successfully advocated for progressive policies, like landmark criminal justice reforms — policies that passed despite Republican control. As Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, I helped build a coalition that successfully passed Wisconsin’s first pro-choice legislation in three decades, through an anti-choice Assembly. I took on shameful racial disparities in infant mortality rates in Wisconsin, and worked with community leaders and advocates to come up with solutions that worked for those most affected. Being an effective lawmaker and advocate is a learned skill.

I’m also an attorney and a small business owner – in a legislature where fewer and fewer members are lawyers. Finally, I am the mother of young children, which means issues like paid leave, affordable childcare, and gun violence are personal to me. In a 33 member Senate, only 7 seats are held by women — and not a single one has young or school aged children at home. If elected, I’d be the youngest woman in the Senate.

UW-Madison is situated in the 26th Senate District, but its role as an economic engine benefits the entire state. Please tell us how you would represent the university in the legislature and make sure your colleagues from outside Dane County understand the statewide benefit of a strong UW-Madison? 

UW-Madison, and the UW system as a whole, is the crown jewel of Wisconsin. As an alumna of the law school, I also have a personal stake in the UW’s success. The university needs adequate funding from the legislature, and less political and administrated interference. Funding cuts and changes like undermining academic freedom and rolling back tenure protections are taking a toll on the UW — that must be reversed. UW lags behind peer institutions in pay and benefits for faculty and staff — a disastrous trend that will threaten not only UW’s preeminence as a shining example of public higher education, but the entire state’s economic future. We know that strong UW-Madison benefits the state’s economy, culture, quality of life, and industries from agriculture to tourism.

As the senator representing campus, I will have a special responsibility to bring the voice of the University to the capitol — and to help demonstrate its value to my colleagues there. I will do this by inviting faculty to the capitol for hearings and panels, promoting partnerships like the Evidence Based Policy presentations, traveling around the state to meet with legislators in their districts and talking about what UW means to their constituents, and always advocating for UW in the budget and in legislation related to higher ed.

State funding for higher education has fallen dramatically over the past generation, resulting in a dependence on tuition and fundraising to replace decreased state support. The ongoing tuition freeze coupled with several state budget cuts has forced UW-Madison to make serious cuts, while other UW System campuses face devastating budget shortfalls. How would you address these concerns if elected? 

To restore the millions of dollars in cuts UW-Madison and UW System campuses have endured, we need to do several things. First, we need to maximize the federal money the state receives, such as by accepting federal Medicaid expansion dollars, broadband connectivity dollars, and transit/transportation funding. Second, we need to close tax loopholes and corporate giveaways and institute fair taxation — for too long, the biggest corporations and wealthiest have gotten a free ride, while working families and small business paid taxes in their place. Third, we need to reduce spending on mass incarceration; it’s unconscionable that we spend more on prisons than on UW, especially given that doing so has not made us any safer (if anything, it has made our communities less safe and stable). Fourth, we need to restore more autonomy to UW campuses and strengthen shared governance — including letting them manage their own budgets, set tuition, recruit faculty, and keep their own “rainy day” funds.

UW-Madison as an institution understands diversity to be a value that is inextricable from its other values, including educational and research excellence. Tell us about your legislative priorities on diversity, racial justice, and their relation to the values you hold related to higher education. 

I agree that diversity and inclusion are necessary components of excellence and success, but unfortunately by many metrics Wisconsin is the worst state in the nation in which to be a Black child. On many indices from health care to education to housing to college completion to wages to criminal justice, Wisconsin has shameful racial disparities. I have prioritized eliminating racial disparities throughout my adult life, and have detailed plans on my website, discussing racial disparities on their own but also in specific policy areas like housing, cannabis legalization, and reproductive justice.

Again, I have “walked the walk” on racial justice, from my work at the Innocence Project to pass legislation to prevent wrongful convictions, to founding an ACLU chapter as a law student in the wake of 9/11 to combat Islamophobia, to making ending racial disparities in infant mortality a central priority of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin when I became executive director. In the Assembly, I took on issues inextricably linked to racial justice that were seen as fringe or unpopular, even among Democrats, such as ending prison gerrymandering, stopping privatization at the DOT, cooperative housing purchasing, and enacting a National Popular Vote.

As state senator, I will look at all policy decisions through a racial justice and equity lens, and prioritize reducing racial disparities so that every child, every family, and every community in our state can thrive. That’s why I have detailed plans to end police brutality, stop mass incarceration, legalize cannabis, ensure cultural competence in healthcare, and ensure that every student is able to receive the free, quality public education that she is promised by our state constitution. That means, for example, ending the failed voucher program that is taking millions from our public schools every year, expanding pathways to higher ed for students from marginalized communities, and guaranteeing in-state tuition for DREAMers. Cost and accessibility should never be a barrier for students — but for too many students of color, finances (from student debt to lack of parental financial support to the need to work) make it difficult to pursue or complete a degree. The state has an obligation to prioritize helping close the opportunity gap in educational attainment for students of color.

A budget repair bill and the 2021-23 biennial budget loom large and the financial impact of COVID-19 is enormous. What are your funding priorities in the upcoming biennium? 

Funding public education is always fundamental, and especially so during a global pandemic. Schools need immediate additional resources to operate successfully and safely, whether to move learning online, accommodate smaller class sizes, rent additional space, hire extra staff, or pay for increased sanitation and PPE. As someone who has always been a champion of increased public education funding, I will not let a budget pass without demanding additional resources for public K12 schools and public higher educational institutions.

Likewise, we need significant investments in technology and closing the technology gap – especially broadband connectivity and internet access, which ought to be regulated and accessible like the necessary public utilities they are. When social distancing is necessary, the only way to continue working, learning, and living, is to increase our capacity to connect virtually.

As I wrote earlier, recovering from COVID, maximizing federal dollars, expanding healthcare, addressing tax unfairness, and redirecting resources from mass incarceration to public investment, are key budget priorities. We also need to take major action towards sustainability, both in reducing emissions and pollution and in conservation and green energy production.

John Imes Responses

What are you goals for your first term in office should you be elected? 

Thank you to PROFS for providing this opportunity to discuss ways we can protect and defend UW-Madison faculty, students and staff and make a stronger funding commitment to higher education in the state. As State Senator, I will work to implement bold, high-road, progressive policies that prioritize workers’ rights, teachers rights and public health; defend the UW; protect women’s rights and equal rights for all; and work towards a long-term Wisconsin Green New Deal.

For example, I believe we can come out of this crisis healthier, stronger, and more resilient as a university community, but only if we implement an economic recovery plan that works for all and prioritizes worker health and public safety, provides affordable health care, paid sick, family and medical leave, and direct economic relief.

My goal is to make the state a model for high-road practices and provide incentives to those that adopt them and enact legislation requiring them. Providing a livable fair wage, family-friendly benefits, work-life balance, education and technical training and a “just transition”, particularly for women, immigrants, and people of color, will help reduce social/economic disparities and make an economic recovery that works for all possible.

Please describe your qualifications and what sets you apart from your fellow candidates. 

As a locally elected official, environmental nonprofit leader, small business owner and married father of four college-age children, I bring a uniquely diverse experience working with stakeholders on issues for over two decades in the 26th Senate District that will allow me to build the coalitions we need to protect and advance the University of Wisconsin-Madison and win back a Democratic majority.

I also serve on the Joint Campus Area Committee that reviews all UW-Madison building projects and have worked extensively with the UW Morgridge Center for Public Service, Badger Volunteers on numerous programs and initiatives.

I also understand the importance of listening and will work effectively with PROFS legislative representative and administrator to enact the high-road, progressive policies that advance the University’s strategic priorities, initiatives, and the Wisconsin Idea.

UW-Madison is situated in the 26th Senate District, but its role as an economic engine benefits the entire state. Please tell us how you would represent the university in the legislature and make sure your colleagues from outside Dane County understand the statewide benefit of a strong UW-Madison? 

I look forward to working closely with the University to advance strategic priorities, initiatives and messaging that defends the UW’s budget priorities, restores funding levels, and eliminates staff furloughs to protect jobs, research, and grant funding.

My advocacy for UW-Madison faculty, students and staff will be stronger than the opposition lobbying against it because of my background as a locally elected official, environmental nonprofit leader and small business owner that make me a highly credible messenger on the economic case and statewide benefits of a strong UW-Madison.

State funding for higher education has fallen dramatically over the past generation, resulting in a dependence on tuition and fundraising to replace decreased state support. The ongoing tuition freeze coupled with several state budget cuts has forced UW-Madison to make serious cuts, while other UW System campuses face devastating budget shortfalls. How would you address these concerns if elected? 

I will apply my extensive management background and experience as a local official to make sure state funding for higher education is restored and our faculty and staff are compensated as valued partners and will defend the UW System from future cuts by building a stronger funding commitment to higher education by the state.

UW-Madison as an institution understands diversity to be a value that is inextricable from its other values, including educational and research excellence. Tell us about your legislative priorities on diversity, racial justice, and their relation to the values you hold related to higher education. 

I stand for equal pay for women and a woman’s right to choose and equal rights for all our LGBTQ+ community members. I will also stand against intolerance and hate and the rhetoric and policies that target immigrants, refugees, and people of all faiths in our community. Expanding minority faculty and student recruitment and retention is a priority I will also support.

A primary goal of our campaign is to enact high-road progressive policies that create a more just, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive economy that works for all. We cannot achieve that goal amid the ongoing problems of unequal justice and police misconduct that is often racially motivated. Therefore, our campaign also supports Justice in Policing reforms to ensure greater transparency, accountability, and justice for all.

A budget repair bill and the 2021-23 biennial budget loom large and the financial impact of COVID-19 is enormous. What are your funding priorities in the upcoming biennium? 

Dismantle all the traditional economic development incentives and state spending that benefits large, non-local multinational corporations like Foxconn and redirect savings to local businesses and a stronger funding commitment for the university’s operating budget. Studies show locally owned businesses generate two to four times the jobs, income, and wealth of non-local businesses and that will help the region’s economy and the state budget recover more quickly.

We also need a more fair and equitable tax system by ending unaffordable tax incentives including the $100+ million in credits that will go to Wisconsin filers who earned over $3 million last year.

Nada Elmikashfi Responses

What are you goals for your first term in office should you be elected? 

At 6 years old, my family and I emigrated from a small farming community in Sudan to find a better life in Wisconsin. Madison offered us opportunity, but we also struggled. Growing up, I witnessed how a lack of affordable housing, educational inequity, and our crumbling healthcare system burdened my family and fellow Madison. Since then, I have made it my mission to fight for the communities I grew up in.

My goal is to fight for and pass working-class policies like BadgerCare for All, a Union Green New Deal, and funding K-12 education and the UW System. You can read my full platform on my website. However, the political reality is that any of these progressive policy agendas will be met with obstructionism by the Wisconsin GOP. It’s been 10 years since Act 10 and very little has changed in terms of Democrats’ strategy and approach. Governor Evers is a friend of education, but even he needs a strong progressive ally in the State Senate.

Madison is over 90% Democratic, we need to elect a leader who will fundamentally change Wisconsin politics. As the first Muslim and first rural immigrant of color ever elected to the Wisconsin Capitol, I will be able to relate to voters who have not been represented by the Democratic Party. Therefore, my primary goal will be to expand the Democratic electorate, flip key swing districts, and turn our purple state into a Democratic stronghold.

Please describe your qualifications and what sets you apart from your fellow candidates. 

I’ve been an activist and organizer in Madison for many years. As an organizing fellow for NexGen America, I helped contribute to the record-setting 93% voter turnout in Madison for the 2018 midterms. I was appointed by the Mayor of Madison and currently serve on the Sustainable Madison Committee. I’ve also worked in the Capitol. I’ve served on the staff of Gov. Tony Evers’ Gubernatorial Appointments team and worked as a Legislative Fellow for Senator Jennifer Shilling.

Democrats, including one of my opponents, controlled the Capitol from 2008-2010 and failed to address the issues in my community. On August 11th, Madison has a choice. We can continue with the broken status quo or we can put forward the most progressive candidate in Wisconsin history. The working-class needs a seat at the table. We need a candidate who has political experience in the Capitol and the lived experience to fight for change.

As a 2020 UW graduate and an MMSD alumnus, I have experienced firsthand the consequences of the State of Wisconsin’s declining interest in our K-12 and higher education systems, and it’s continual disinvestment and neglect. By taking bold and unapologetically progressive stances on education and other policies, I will be the only candidate who can shift the political conversation to the left and give Evers more leverage in funding negotiations. I am proud to have earned the progressive movement’s support, including endorsements from People for Bernie, Run for Something, Sunrise-Madison, and more.

UW-Madison is situated in the 26th Senate District, but its role as an economic engine benefits the entire state. Please tell us how you would represent the university in the legislature and make sure your colleagues from outside Dane County understand the statewide benefit of a strong UW-Madison? 

I view the role of the 26th District State Senator as dual-purpose in this regard. First, as a staunch advocate for the UW-Madison campus, and secondly for the UW System as a whole. The UW System must reclaim its spot as one of the most envied, productive, and effective systems of higher education in Wisconsin. We must work to build consensus in the legislature. One way to do this is to more heavily involve the business community in lobbying for a strong UW system. We also believe that tax reforms, in general, could help provide dedicated funding streams to the UW System that will be less readily compromised by a spending-slashing Governor in the future. We must focus on bringing suburban Republicans into the conversation as I believe the importance of higher education for suburban voters is growing.

It is equally important to work with the UW-Madison community to create long-term progressive change in Wisconsin. As a 2020 UW graduate, I found it disappointing that none of our elected officials regularly convened with students, faculty, or staff. Youth voter turnout and political mobilization are continually neglected on campus. My campaign is changing that. We have over 200 college students and young adults volunteering for our campaign. After winning the primary on August 11th, we will use our grassroots power to flip key districts across Wisconsin. By engaging and harnessing the political power of UW Madison, we can retake control of the Capitol and pass sweeping reforms for the UW System.

State funding for higher education has fallen dramatically over the past generation, resulting in a dependence on tuition and fundraising to replace decreased state support. The ongoing tuition freeze coupled with several state budget cuts has forced UW-Madison to make serious cuts, while other UW System campuses face devastating budget shortfalls. How would you address these concerns if elected? 

I believe that universities need more flexibility when it comes to funding, so I am open to advocating for a variety of options that align with the interests of the students, faculty, and staff of UW-Madison.

The on-going tuition freeze has put UW-Madison in an incredibly difficult position, as they continually need to cut costs just to keep up with inflation. That is on top of the continued budget cuts and need for long term investment after decades of defunding education. At the same time, I believe that controlling tuition costs is important. Student debt is a large drain on our economy and the biggest barrier to equitable access to higher education. Students and the UW-System are being forced to foot the bill, all while businesses and the WI GOP continue to avoid paying their fair share. Robin Vos lamented government spending but then accepted $150-350k in coronavirus funding for his small business. We must call the WI GOP out on their hypocrisy and make the argument that increased funding for the UW-System is good for the health of our economy. As a result, the best remedy to the UW’s financial situation is for the State of Wisconsin to pay its fair and historical share of funding to the university.

As a legislator, I would be deeply involved in the oversight of the UW System and ensuring that instead of legislating budget cuts, we empower the Board of Regents to once again pursue the Wisconsin Idea in all its facets.

UW-Madison as an institution understands diversity to be a value that is inextricable from its other values, including educational and research excellence. Tell us about your legislative priorities on diversity, racial justice, and their relation to the values you hold related to higher education. 

As an immigrant, Black, and Muslim woman, this question is very personal to me. The current Black Lives Matters movement offers us a chance to really reflect on how racism is deeply embedded within our society. We need to come to terms with the fact that Wisconsin is the most segregated state in our country. Wisconsin has not fulfilled the promise of “forward” to the Black community. This is not just Scott Walker’s fault, Wisconsin has seen decades of inaction on racial justice, primarily because our political leaders have not represented the Black community.

In order to create real and lasting change, we need leadership that takes the politically difficult positions in pursuit of justice. I am proud to have put forward a Black Lives Matter policy platform on my website that includes addressing police brutality and criminal justice reform. Additionally, the rest of my working-class platform is centered on equity and solidarity such as, expanding BadgerCare for all uninsured individuals including undocumented individuals, creating affordable housing for all, and an expansive climate justice platform.

Our budget reflects our priorities. Regarding K-12 education, we must move away from the property tax funding system that continues to perpetuate the legacy of redlining by underfunding schools in communities of color. Additionally, Wisconsin pays an incredible amount to fund the police and criminal justice system. By addressing and defunding these systems we can address racial justice and adequately fund education and invest in Wisconsin’s future.

A budget repair bill and the 2021-23 biennial budget loom large and the financial impact of COVID-19 is enormous. What are your funding priorities in the upcoming biennium? 

My top priority is maintaining current funding levels for staffing for all public employees, ensuring no lay-offs or hardships, while also increasing funding for emergency medical leave, pandemic safety, and for the safe operation of every gear of the government of the people of Wisconsin. This includes providing UW Madison and the UW System the funding that they require to adequately address COVID-19 including, the continued transition to online courses, addressing revenue shortages from the lack of in person events, and ensuring the safety of all students, faculty, and staff.

I do not believe now is the time for budget cuts amidst a global pandemic, economic anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. This is the moment for the government to step in and do right by the people. We are launching our full COVID-19 platform on July 14th that will include hazard pay for essential employees, extended unemployment insurance benefits, and support for small businesses. Most importantly, we must fully fund our hospitals and invest in universal testing and contact tracing. This approach will offer the kind of stability that is necessary to successfully fight the virus and move forward.

UW System President Ray Cross Discusses “Blueprint” on UpFront

University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross appeared on WISN’s UpFront with Adrienne Pedersen Sunday to discuss his Blueprint for the University of Wisconsin System Beyond COVID-19.

Cross introduced the blueprint to the Board of Regents Friday. His plan instructs each regional four-year campus to identify its strongest programs so cuts may be made in areas with limited student interest or instructional capabilities. The plan also includes administrative consolidation and an expansion of online course offerings. UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee are exempt from the directive.

Many faculty throughout UW System have expressed concern about the lack of shared governance in this process, which Cross characterized Sunday as “aggressive and quick.” Cross did not comment on shared governance explicitly in the interview, but said that the board “will seek input from folks in the process” (below).

If they (the Board of Regents) choose to adopt a blueprint, then the faculty and staff around the campuses and communities will be engaged in the process of trying to evaluate this through an objective model that is well known through higher education. How do you refine your mission and make choices on priorities? How do you evaluate programs and services?