Governor Addresses State Education Convention, Promotes Technical Education

Saying a four-year college degree isn’t the only path to success, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on hundreds of school board members, administrators and other public school officials attending the State Education Convention to help change the mindset that values four-year university degrees over technical training.

Addressing the final session of the three-day Convention on Friday, Gov. Walker told attendees that as he travels around the state, he hears from local businesses about their need for skilled workers. And he noted that “so many of our good-paying careers we hear about require two-year technical degrees.”  He later added, “We’ve got to lift up and recognize those career paths that require and apprenticeship or associate degree.”

The governor insisted he was not trying to diminish four-year degrees from colleges and universities, noting that his own sons, Matt and Alex, are following such a college degree path, but he believes not every student needs to follow that path to be successful.

The governor urged guidance counselors, parents and other who influence young people to promote technical careers that require a two-year associate degree from a technical college. “My request to all of you is to help us find a way to lift up every one of our young people who chooses a career… Our economy depends on it. And our society depends on it.”

The governor said he plans to ask for funding in the next budget to develop more college level course offerings through dual enrollment programs at the high school level to allow students to earn a university degree in fewer than the typical four years or to earn a technical degree.

The governor also repeated his pledge, first announced during his State of the State address earlier last week, to invest an unspecified amount of savings created by a proposed restructuring of state employee health care coverage into public education.

“I’m committed to spending every penny of (savings from) those reforms to additional funding for education, said the governor, drawing applause.

The immediate future, however, of plans to restructure state employee health care coverage appears somewhat cloudy given the cool reception from some legislative leaders to a version that would switch from private insurance plans to a self-insured plan.

There are also increasing indications that lawmakers may cut short the remaining days of the legislative session, leaving little time to debate and work out the specifics of such a plan. The likelihood  that the session will sooner than originally planned may be increased given a new report from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.  The report finds state tax revenues will be $94.3 million lower than previously projected.  As the Wisconsin State Journal reported, this factor could limit the scope of legislation lawmakers pass this session before adjourning to campaign prior to the fall election.