Walker signs bill that alters MATC board’s makeup

April 13, 2012

From jsonline.com: “Walker signs bill that alters MATC board’s makeup” — Madison – Gov. Scott Walker privately signed a bill Thursday to overhaul the board of the Milwaukee Area Technical College.

Republicans passed the bill in the Assembly last month in a 33-hour session over the lengthy objections of Democrats, who called the proposal a power grab that singled out the college.

Republicans have said the bill would tighten the connection between the MATC board and business by reshaping its membership and giving more spaces to members with business connections. The bill would not affect the state’s other technical college boards.

“We must do more to foster collaboration between employers and educators to create jobs in Wisconsin. In addition to the governor’s recently created College and Workforce Readiness Council, this bill is a positive step in that direction,” Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said in a statement.

Supporters said the measure is a response, in part, to the Milwaukee-area business community seeking a stronger partnership between manufacturers and MATC, especially because of the region’s high concentration of manufacturing jobs.

Under the legislation, the Milwaukee County executive and the county board chairs in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Washington counties would appoint the new MATC board. Currently, a 20-plus-member committee of K-12 school board representatives picks the board.

“We will work with the members of the District Board Appointment Committee to help ensure a smooth transition to the implementation of the new appointment process,” said Kathleen Hohl, MATC director of communications and events, said regarding the bill to change the appointing authority and structure of the MATC board.

Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) said if the bill was truly about creating jobs, Walker would have signed it in public. He said Walker and GOP lawmakers already had harmed the Wisconsin Technical College System by cutting its state funding in the budget by $72 million over two years.

“You can’t say they need to do more and be more nimble, and be the same people who cut the technical colleges,” Mason said.

Michael Rosen, an economics instructor at MATC and the president of the union representing teachers at the college, said the school and its students were unfairly criticized during the run-up to the bill’s passage. He said MATC compares well with other technical colleges in southeastern Wisconsin, and the current board contained members from businesses such as the staffing firm Manpower Inc.

“As far as I’m concerned, this was an unethical power grab by the Republicans who do not understand Milwaukee, our students or the urban community,” Rosen said.

Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), a lead sponsor of the bill, said it was supported by business groups such as the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce because they want changes from the technical college.

“This is a bill that was supported by the business community to improve the quality of employee coming out of MATC, and I was proud to be part of it,” Grothman said.

The bill would reshape the MATC board to consist of one school administrator, one elected official, two at-large members and five people appointed to represent for-profit businesses or nonprofit medical facilities. At least two of the five would come from manufacturing.

The board now is required to have one school district administrator, one elected official, three at-large members, two employers and two employees.

MATC’s former District Board Appointment Committee met after the bill passed last month and reappointed MATC District Board members Bobbie Webber, the union liaison for Dental Associates/Care Plus Dental Plan, and Anne Wilson, manager of the Hillside Resource Center; and appointed Conrad Farner, superintendent of the Greenfield School District. Their terms were scheduled to run from July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015.

Under pressure from Democrats last month, Republicans agreed to changes to ensure MATC did not lose its licenses for its public television stations.

The deal made no changes to the bill itself but allowed six of the nine current board members to serve out their terms before the new system is used to fill those seats.

MATC holds the Federal Communications Commission license for Channels 10 and 36, and MATC’s governing body is the college’s board. At issue was whether replacing all nine board members at the same time would constitute a transfer of control. Federal statute requires FCC approval for transfer of control.

MATC’s legal counsel said last month that if the bill were to become law, the board turnover would result in a transfer of control. In part because of that concern, Assembly Democrats dragged out debate through the night.


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