We have all now heard that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who currently leads the polls as the top GOP 2016 presidential candidate, dropped out of Marquette University 34 credits short of a degree to accept a job with The American Red Cross. All of sudden, this piece of news, which is which isn’t really news, as Walker never hid his educational status, has called into question Governor Walker’s ability to be a viable 45th President of the United States. Leading democrats have been playing up Walker’s incomplete college education including former Vermont Governor Howard Dean who weighed in during a recent MSNBC appearance with the comment “The issue is, how well-educated is this guy?” Some agree with Howard Dean, sharing the perception that an individual who does not hold at least a bachelor’s degree is not sufficiently well educated to be President of the United States in the 21st Century. Others completely dismiss Dean, who attended private primary and secondary schools and holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, as an elitist child of privilege. After all, Scott Walker is more representative of a middle or lower income American for whom college is not a rite of passage, but a path to better job. After all, only 33% of Americans hold a bachelor’s degree. The discussion has been further broadened to site examples of successful presidents without college degrees such as Abraham Lincoln. And of course, the two famous Harvard drop-outs Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are trotted out to underline the point that you can make oodles of money without a sheepskin on your wall. Let’s bear in mind that Gates and Zuckerberg clearly had the grades and perceived aptitude to be admitted to Harvard. Also, try applying in 2015 for a management job at either Microsoft or Facebook without a Bachelor’s degree and see how far you get in the resume vetting process. All of these statistics about who has a college degree and who doesn’t are completely irrelevant to Governor Walker’s potential to be a successful president.
Governor Scott Walker, like all other candidates for the Oval Office, should be judged on his past professional accomplishments and his vision for America. The man who left college to work at the Red Cross is now the thrice elected Governor of Wisconsin, a state which is not typically friendly to conservatives. He parlayed a decade as a state legislator into obtaining the Milwaukee County Executive seat which created a path for him to run for governor. The public should be examining Walker’s career trajectory and his track record as Governor of Wisconsin. He is obviously doing something right on the administrative, legislative, public perception and fundraising fronts to be re-elected twice.
Governor Walker needs to be judged in terms of his past policy and future intentions for the issues which will be critical to the next president. Instead of putting his personal educational accomplishments under a microscope, we should focus on his educational policies which he has implemented or proposed for the state of Wisconsin. For instance, Walker is a proponent of providing vouchers for school choice. In his February 5 release of Wisconsin’s two year $68 billion budget, Governor Walker included common sense solutions for education, including expanding the taxpayer funded private school voucher program by eliminating the statewide cap of 1,000 students in the program for the 2015-2016 school year. Walker also limited the program to low-income students who are currently not enrolled in a private school because they are either attending public school or not yet old enough for school.
The program is still open to students currently enrolled in voucher private schools with the possibility of entering the program in Kindergarten, first or ninth grades. The voucher private school funding is a re-allocation of the per child state funding which would have otherwise gone to the public school which each respective child would have attended if they were not in the private voucher school. With these modifications to the school voucher program, Walker has demonstrated that he is committed to providing better educational outcomes to all students of Wisconsin. But his focus on only delivering the vouchers to low income students shows that he is focused on delivering social programs in way that makes fiscal sense. Walker is also demonstrating the same fiscal responsibility with his proposed 13% cuts to The University of Wisconsin system. While liberals may call him out for cutting public university funding, he is freezing the tuition levels for two years. Walker is also freeing the University of Wisconsin system from some state rules on personnel, procurement and building projects, and action which should help the University to have greater autonomy and increased process and cost efficiency.
We need to judge Governor Scott Walker on his achievements and on his blueprint for America, not the plaques displayed on his wall. We need a 2016 President who has the right stuff to improve our nation’s long term economic outlook. Governor Scott Walker knows that broader access to affordable quality primary, secondary and post-secondary education is critical to facilitating a better quality of life for all Americans. But, he is also aware that there are ways to invest in educational outcomes without putting a budget underwater. Walker has applied that same fiscal management to other state expenses. He has put more money in people’s pockets by reducing property taxes. Wisconsin is also the only state in the country with a fully funded state pension plan. Walker has plowed $600 million into Medicaid to provide healthcare to families, children and senior citizens, making it again the only state in the country without a gap in Medicaid coverage. Walker is also taking a bold approach to other social programs including tying the delivery of food stamps to enrollment in a job training program and welfare eligibility to successfully passing a drug test.
Scott Walker is clearly an innovative leader who believes in strong fiscal management and creating opportunities for individuals to realize their own potential. His lack of a college degree will not be a barrier to his successful stewardship of America’s future.
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