On Friday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel argued that "...the legislature's Joint Finance Committee should at the very least maintain its small increase in state aid for technical colleges."
The editorial board noted the critical role the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) is playing in the Great Recession:
Milwaukee Area Technical College plays a key role in training workers for jobs during an economic downturn. This has never been clearer than during this recession. As unemployment numbers go up, students flood to MATC to sharpen current skills or learn new ones....
MATC is different from a traditional four-year college, but just as necessary. Most of the students at the school just take a class or two. But these classes may be just what they need to earn or keep a job.
In other words, MATC helps the community roll with the economic punches by helping workers and those laid off to reinvent themselves and adapt to new economic realities.
Technical college state aid has fallen from more than 30% of revenues in 1990 to a measly 13% today. This precipitous decline in state investment has shifted the burden of financing workforce education and training to property tax-paying homeowners and students, undermining the legislature's intent when it created the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the 1970's with a three-legged funding model of one-third state aid, one-third local property taxes, and one- third other sources.
The Joint Finance Committee restored proposed cuts to WTCS general aid (totaling $3.37 million) and approved a 1% increase in general aid (totaling $1.84 million). It was the first increase since 2001. The vote was 12-4 on party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
The Journal Sentinel editorial in support of increased investment in technical education was its first since 1999.