My apologies that I continue to go on about Republican attacks on higher education, but it really has become clear now that this is a major goal of 2015 for the GOP: weaken and/or destroy public universities as much as possible. I’ll use this post to keep a running list.
- North Carolina Senate Bill 593. This is the bill discussed in the open letter that I previously blogged. In short, Senator Tom McInnis has proposed that all state university professors be forced to teach a 4/4 course load. If strictly implemented as proposed, it would kill all graduate programs throughout the state. One wonders if this is even possible: there simply aren’t that many courses available to teach, as on average this would require doubling or tripling teachers’ courses. But this brings us to another aspect of the bill: professors who don’t teach the full 4/4 load will have their pay cut proportionally, which makes this bill a rather unsubtle way to slash faculty pay. Unsurprisingly, this bill is not advocated by anyone who cares about higher education, but is enthusiastically supported by the right-wing “Pope Center for Higher Education,” whose goals include “Increase the diversity of ideas taught, debated, and discussed on campus.” Translation: “Force more discredited right-wing ideas on campus.” Unsurprisingly, this think-tank is supported by Art Pope, the billionaire who bought himself a conservative legislature in NC.
- University of Wisconsin $300 million budget cut. The truly horrible Governor Scott Walker has slashed $300 million from the University of Wisconsin’s state funding over the next two years, a stunning 13 percent reduction. This is expected to produce hundreds of layoffs and sure as hell won’t make education any better. It doesn’t even make economic sense: a recent study showed that every dollar spent on UW-Madison produces $24 for the economy. These cuts are apparently not even necessary, considering that Walker is planning to spend $500 million on a pro-basketball stadium. Walker has his own billionaire benefactors in the Koch brothers, who supported his election and reelection campaigns and now enthusiastically endorse him for President.
- Iowa universities become the “Hunger Games.” Just brought to my attention yesterday, Senate File 64 in Iowa, proposed by Republican Mark Chelgren, would force minimum teaching loads on all professors as well, though not as severely as in NC. Even worse, however, is that it would allow tenured professors to be fired by students, as the lowest 5 ranking professors in teaching evaluations would have their jobs put up for a vote by said students. This bill has immediately been renamed by astute critics as the “Everyone gets an A” bill. You see, this bill would give students the power to blackmail teachers into giving them good grades, and would destroy the quality of education. Learning is hard, and it will often make students unhappy. Teaching evaluations, in general, measure the happiness of students, not how much they’ve actually learned. I suspect that this bill is also just a barely-disguised way to weaken tenure at public universities and make faculty fearful and quiet. As the Senate is Democratically-controlled right now, I’m hoping this bill will die a quick and painful death.
- Union busting in Ohio. Proposed by GOP Representative Ryan Smith, Substitute House Bill 64 will bar faculty at public universities from unionizing. Lots of states — NC included — already have laws on the book prohibiting public sector unions, but Ohio has thankfully avoided that fate until now. So what’s the big deal? Well, eliminating the right to unionize cripples the ability of the faculty to respond to other attacks on their jobs and the quality of education in their institutions. This is likely the first attempt to “soften up” the institutions before a full-fledged attack begins.
- Privatize everything in Illinois. Republican Senator Bill Brady has proposed privatizing the entire public university system in Illinois, converting state appropriations ($1.2 billion indirect appropriations) to the university into student grants. It’s hard to imagine this resulting in anything other than increased tuition for students and overall increased costs for the university system.
- Bankrupting Louisiana’s university system. As just reported yesterday as of this writing, many if not most of Louisiana’s public colleges may be forced into what is effectively bankruptcy conditions. The conservative legislators seem utterly unwilling to do anything that might make up the financial shortfall, such as (gasp!) reduce tax credits or raise taxes on the wealthy. This seems like a plan of death by inaction. As noted in the linked article, “The status makes it easier for public colleges to shut down programs and lay off tenured faculty, but it also tarnishes the school’s reputation, making it harder to recruit faculty and students.”
What am I missing? Let me know if there are other major attacks on public education in the United States.