Thursday, August 29, 2013

Walker Is Gearing Up To Give Up Rest Of Public Education Money

Scott Walker has been trying to gain some positive press by touting an agenda for the fall that would focus on "workforce development."

Of course, we already that by "workforce development:," Walker is referring to taking unskilled workers, giving them the minimal training - at taxpayer expense -so that they can work for a third of the prevailing wage. And if they get hurt, well, workers are more expendable when you don't invest a lot of money in them.

I might be dating myself, but I remember when companies would train their own workers or let the unions bring on apprentices and get trained that way.

Anyway, as we have learned, when it comes to Walker, there is more.  There is always more:
Walker’s newsroom visit followed a Wednesday meeting with Competitive Wisconsin Inc. in Milwaukee, a nonpartisan coalition whose research has shaped some of Walker’s key economic development initiatives as governor.

Competitive Wisconsin’s “Be Bold Wisconsin” study proposed creating a public-private economic development arm that resulted in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. The group’s “Be Bold 2” report last year, along with a related skills gap study headed by local manufacturing exec Tim Sullivan, heavily influenced the $15 million training bill.

Walker told Competitive Wisconsin officials on Wednesday that if the group produces more “tangible” economic development recommendations, his administration will consider acting on them.

“In the first two plans I didn’t necessarily take the plan and put it right into law, but I joked and I said we came pretty close,” Walker said. “There’s a receptiveness on our part if they come back with a plan based on real needs and real opportunity for economic development in the state that we would largely embrace it as we did the first two plans.”
Wonderful! Walker has publicly opened up Wisconsin for more pillaging by the same miscreants and reprobates who gave us WEDC, which has lost tens of millions of dollars of our tax money in sweet heart giveaways to Walker's campaign donors.  And that's not counting the money they spent on iTunes and Badger game tickets for themselves.

Now, the gentle reader might be asking themselves, "Who the heck is Competitive Wisconsin?"

That is a very good question with a very bad answer (emphasis mine):
Now that he’s a free agent, Sullivan is stepping out as a leader in the multi-pronged assault on public education under the guise of “strengthening workforce development.” He’s using these councils to create the illusion of bipartisan and inter-agency consent to drastic changes in state policy that shift control away from democratically elected bodies to “public-private partnerships,” and to other drastic changes in the state budget that privilege the interests of manufacturers over the needs of Wisconsin kids.

The Council on Workforce Investment and the College and Workforce Readiness Council are working closely with Competitive Wisconsin, an alliance of politically connected businesses organized by Jim Wood, president of their family PR firm Wood Communications. Jim also sits on the board of the Wisconsin Mining Association. Wood Communications has a long history of promoting controversial mining projects in the state such as the Flambeau mine in Ladysmith and the Exxon mine in Crandon.

Competitive Wisconsin’s Be Bold campaign, launched in 2010, resulted in the proposal to break up the Department of Commerce and create the semi-privatized Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that is in the business of handing out corporate tax credits to “job creators.” At a meeting in Madison last week, Jim Wood told participants that both candidates for Governor in 2010 – Democrat Tom Barrett and Republican Scott Walker – agreed to adopt the recommendations of that campaign. Indeed, Scott Walker decided to adopt Be Bold’s ready-made proposals as his own agenda once in office. A brief comparison of the Be Bold website and the Governor’s website shows a remarkable resemblance in content and language.

Though Competitive Wisconsin describes itself as a nonpartisan policy group, the interests they serve are easily discovered by a perusal of their policy papers. They make no bones about who they are promoting in the document BE BOLD: The Role of Capital in the Building and Maintaining of Wisconsin’s Entrepreneurial Economy:
“The public and private sectors must also focus now on encouraging and enabling current employers who have expansion and growth potential to maximize that potential as quickly as possible. Strong exporting cluster industries, such as defense manufacturing, medical devices, and minerals, would fall into this category.”
“Be Bold 2: Focusing on Jobs” is their new initiative. It would more accurately be subtitled, “Raiding Public Education Budgets.” Competitive Wisconsin hired Manpower, Inc. to do a study called “The Talent Mismatch” that will analyze the demand for vs. supply of job skills in the Wisconsin labor force. According to Wood, they hope to show that “a lack of resources creates tension on the high demand skills market and constrains business growth.”

Plainly speaking, they want to make the argument that public K-12 schools, tech colleges and universities should be aligning their curriculum and programs of study with the jobs demanded by manufacturers in the defense, medical device and mining industries, with health care as an afterthought. The results of this study will then be reported to lawmakers, perhaps through the Committee on Improving Educational Opportunities in High School that met for the first time last week, and then legislated into policy next year.

That is also the goal of Tim Sullivan and his workforce development groups. Although on the face of it they seem to be bipartisan policy research groups, these councils and consortia are actually private clubs of the corporate elite and their allies in government agencies where they build consensus about how to best pursue their interests. In this case, the interest is focused on the jackpot that is the $33 billion biennial public K-12 education budget.

Sullivan wasn’t pulling any punches on Thursday during a meeting of the Workforce Investment Council. After a presentation of a map of all federal and state workforce development money available for job training and work-readiness programs, the group’s conclusion was that $406 million a year is not nearly enough to meet the training needs of companies that claim they can’t find qualified workers, and the unemployed workers themselves.

But Tim Sullivan has a plan, and it involves getting access to some of that $33 billion of the public education budget.
Now, Sullivan recently left his position to goldbrick in the private sector again, but don't think for one second that this is anything but a minor hitch to these special interests that have their eyes on the whole education budget.

I wouldn't be surprised if we learn that they are also after the higher education funds as well.  It would explain the faux outrage that the Teapublicans expressed at the money that the University of Wisconsin had squirreled away and why they were so eager to get their hands on it.

Perhaps Walker should consider a slogan change from "Wisconsin - Open for Business" to "Our Kids - Up for Sale."

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