A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, the last is a sensationalist and dishonest series about Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), targeted a Pre-College instructor, suggesting that he was somehow gaming the system.
Others have now chimed in that he is ONLY a GED instructor. In fact, Mr. Holmes who has been a professional educator for 36 years not only teaches a full load of classes to some of our community's most disadvantaged students, but he also has wide ranging administrative duties as the Instructional chair for the entire four-campus Pre-College division.
When MATC instructors take on additional responsibilities they are paid only 60% of the full-time salary saving the college money because it does not hire full-time faculty or staff to conduct those duties. In the private sector that MATC's critics are so quick to point to employees who work overtime are paid time and one half.
The Public Policy Forum report that was the basis for the MJS's series of articles was quite clear: the average base salary for MATC faculty in 2007 was $85,000. The only way faculty made above that was doing additional work at a discounted rate.
The MJS and others may not like it that MATC's educators are paid fairly for their education and years of experience. But that is hardly the scandal that the paper's coverage implies.
Students in the Pre-College division are overwhelming working class and disproportionately students of color. There are over 100,000 adults in the MATC district who do not have a high school degree. MATC and all technical colleges are required by state legislation to provide the educationally disadvantaged with low-cost education. That is a very good thing, although very challenging work. The educators who work in this division change lives as the video below makes clear.
The MJS analysis that MATC is in a financial crisis is also not supported by the facts.
MATC has an Aa1 bond rating and unlike the City, County and State has not experienced any reduction in its rating over more than a decade.
The college also has a healthy rainy day fund unlike the State or the County.
MATC has maintained its infrastructure enabling the college to provide our students with hands-on state-of-the market technical education. For every dollar invested in MATC, $4 returns to the local economy. MATC provides the middle skills workers that make up 70% of Southeastern Wisconsin ’s workforce.
MATC has become overly dependent on local property taxes. This has nothing to do with faculty salaries. In fact, instructional costs per full time equivalent student, a generally accepted measure of institutional efficiency, were 6th among all tech colleges in 2009.
MATC has been forced to rely on local property taxes because state investment has declined from 30% as recently as 1990 to less than 14% today. As a result MATC has been forced to rely on local property taxes to make up the difference.
In 1999 the Milwaukee Journal made exactly this point when it wrote an editorial entitled “Deadly cuts to tech schools” and asked “Who’s to blame? It answered: “The state that’s who….”
Over the past twenty years the state’s contribution to tech colleges has plummeted. During these years Republican Senators Alberta Darling and Glenn Grothman, the most vociferous critics of MATC, have repeatedly voted against increasing tech college funding. The result is that property taxes have increased to support the college’s work educating and training the labor force.
After more than two decades of state disinvestment, the Journal Sentinel has now decided it’s the faculty who are to blame for the college's fiscal challenges. The destructive trends the Journal identified in a decade ago remain. Faculty salaries have increased modestly over the same period although last year, in the middle of the Great Recession, MATC’s faculty voluntarily gave up their negotiated salary increase.
What has changed, as Eric Gunn, a columnist for Milwaukee Magazine and former Journal reporter, wrote in a recent column is that the Journal Sentinel is now run by an anti-labor cabal that sees no contradiction between attacking the middle class salaries of MATC’s faculty while arguing that the Bush tax cuts for millionaires should be extended.