Wisconsin schools superintendent wants UW regents to delay vote on deal to limit diversity positions

Dec 13, 2023, 12:01 PM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s state school superintendent on Wednesday called for Universities of Wisconsin regents to delay a second vote on a deal with Republican legislators that would limit campus diversity positions in exchange for employee raises and money for construction projects.

The regents rejected the deal on a 9-8 vote on Saturday amid complaints from Democrats that the deal sells out minority and LGBTQ+ students and faculty.

But after a closed-door meeting Tuesday led by Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman, the regents called for another vote Wednesday evening. The agenda indicated that Regent Amy Blumenfeld Bogost, who voted against the proposal on Saturday, had switched positions and now supported it.

State Superintendent Jill Underly automatically doubles as a regent by virtue of her position. She did not vote Saturday because she was out of the country. She issued a statement Wednesday asking regents to reschedule the second vote because she was still out of country, has inconsistent internet access and won’t be available at the meeting time.

“It is clear the Regents are divided, and further work is necessary. I look forward to being able to be a full part of that conversation upon my return to the U.S. next week,” Underly said in a statement requesting Wednesday’s session be rescheduled.

She did not say where she was or why she was overseas. A follow-up email to the state Department of Public Instruction seeking those details early Wednesday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.

Universities of Wisconsin spokesperson Mark Pitsch didn’t immediately respond to a message asking if the regents would reschedule the vote.

The state budget that Republicans approved and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signed this past summer called for a 6% raise for university employees over the next two years. But Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos refused to allow the GOP-controlled Legislature’s employment committee to release the money in an attempt to force the regents to reduce the number of positions that work on diversity, equity and inclusion projects.

Vos has insisted such efforts only produce division. The dispute reflects a broader cultural battle over college diversity initiatives playing out across the country.

Evers has leveled intense criticism toward Vos and Republicans for withholding the raises. The governor filed a lawsuit with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in October arguing that lawmakers have overstepped their authority by blocking the raises.

Last week Rothman and Vos unveiled a deal that call for releasing money for the raises as well as funding various campus construction projects. The list includes $200 million for a new UW-Madison engineering building, a top priority for officials at the flagship university, as well as money to renovate dorms at UW-Whitewater, Vos’ alma mater. The Legislature’s budget committee will hand the university system an additional $32 million for workforce development.

The regents, in turn, will freeze hiring for diversity positions through 2026 and shift at least 43 current diversity positions to focus on “student success.” Campuses also will have to eliminate statements supporting diversity on student applications. UW-Madison will have to end an affirmative action faculty hiring program and create a position focused on conservative thought.

UW-Madison must accept all applicants who finished in the top 5% of their class at Wisconsin high school. The regional campuses must accept all applicants who finished in the top 10% of their class at a state high school.

Chris Kapenga, a Republican who serves as president of the state Senate, has said that regents who vote against the deal may not get confirmed. Bogost, John Miller and Dana Wachs all voted against the deal on Saturday and have yet to be confirmed.

Bogost did not return messages Wednesday. Wachs told The Associated Press that he wouldn’t change his vote but didn’t know what would happen Wednesday night. Regent Ed Manydeeds, who voted against the deal on Saturday, also said he would vote against it again Wednesday but he didn’t know what the final outcome would be.

“I’m not certain,” Manydeeds said. “I don’t politic my fellow regents to find out what they’re thinking. At the last vote we had, I was surprised. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Legislature’s Black Caucus planned an afternoon news conference outside the state Capitol to rail against the deal. The caucus released a statement last week saying the proposal left them “appalled and ashamed.”


Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this report.

United States News

A calendar shows the month of February, including leap day, Feb. 29, on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in S...

Associated Press

Have a look at the whos, whats and whens of leap year through time

NEW YORK (AP) — Leap year. It’s a delight for the calendar and math nerds among us. So how did it all begin and why? Have a look at some of the numbers, history and lore behind the (not quite) every four year phenom that adds a 29th day to February. BY THE NUMBERS The […]

58 minutes ago

FILE - Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim greets supporters outside Central High School on the day of the r...

Associated Press

Fatigue and frustration as final do-over mayoral election looms in Connecticut’s largest city

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — It’s been nearly four months since a judge tossed out the results of a Democratic mayoral primary in Connecticut’s largest city due to allegations of ballot stuffing, sending voters repeatedly back to the polls and thrusting Bridgeport into an unflattering national spotlight. Many frustrated local voters say they just want it […]

59 minutes ago

Homes are seen on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in the southwest Portland, Ore., suburb of Beaverton. Th...

Associated Press

A housing shortage is testing Oregon’s pioneering land use law. Lawmakers are poised to tweak it

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A severe lack of affordable housing has prompted Oregon lawmakers to consider chipping away at a 1970s law that made the state a national leader in leveraging land use policy to prevent suburban sprawl and conserve nature and agriculture. The so-called urban growth boundary, a sacred cow of Oregon’s liberal politics, […]

60 minutes ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump hugs and kisses the American flag a...

Associated Press

Trump calls himself a ‘proud political dissident’ in CPAC speech

In a CPAC speech, Trump painted an apocalyptic vision of the future if President Joe Biden wins again as the two prepare for a rematch.

5 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to the audience after spea...

Associated Press

Donald Trump wins South Carolina GOP primary, beating Nikki Haley in her home state

Trump has now swept every contest that counted for Republican delegates, with wins already in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Why AP called South Carolina for Trump: Race call explained

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Associated Press declared Donald Trump the winner of the South Carolina primary as soon as polls closed on Saturday. The race call was based on a comprehensive survey of South Carolina Republican primary voters that showed him defeating Nikki Haley by wide margins in her home state. Declaring a winner as […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Wisconsin schools superintendent wants UW regents to delay vote on deal to limit diversity positions