State News: Fossil Fuels, Rail Expansion, School Breakfast

UW-Green Bay to Offer New Water-Science Degree

Earlier this year, Gov. Tony Evers called 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water and announced $70 million for water-quality programs.

Some say this is a good step, but not nearly enough. An aging workforce and a shortage of trained new talent has left the industry struggling to keep up with the demands for those programs.

A new undergraduate major at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay seeks to fill that gap by equipping students with a comprehensive water-science education that meets workforce needs – a move that has received local industry support.

UW-Green Bay’s water-science degree, which will start in fall 2019, is the intersection of the science and policy of water, said John Luczaj, a geoscience professor in UW-GB’s Department of Natural and Applied Sciences.  

It’s also the first of its kind in the UW System, he said, though a few other programs around the state touch on the topic.

Students will begin the degree with courses heavy in the sciences – chemistry, biology, mathematics, physics and geoscience – and then move on to core water classes ranging from hydrology and surface water to groundwater and policy. Upper-level courses will allow students to specialize, Luczaj said.

Study Finds Benefits in Move from Fossil Fuels

A new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy – or COWS – has concluded that Wisconsin could generate jobs and improve public health by transitioning its energy system away from fossil fuels.

The report found Wisconsin now gets most of its energy from out-of-state fossil-fuel sources.

“What that really means is that we’re importing energy,” said Katya Spear, a COWS senior associate and co-author of the study. “And we’re exporting money to import energy to the tune of some $14-plus billion a year.”

Researchers then developed a model of a mix of in-state alternative-energy sources – solar, geothermal, wind energy, biomass and nuclear – Wisconsin could use to generate 100 percent of its needs, plus reap potential benefits from improved energy efficiency.

The study found that generating all of Wisconsin’s energy needs from in-state sources would more than double the number of energy-sector jobs, cut air pollution and boost state revenues.

Spear said the study suggests there shouldn’t be a concern that an energy transition would force the state to choose between economic development and environmental benefit.  

Gov. Tony Evers’ budget would require Wisconsin utilities to move to carbon-free electricity by 2050.

UW-Madison Ranks First for PhD Grads
Simon Goldberg earned his doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017. His PhD was one of 844 conferred that year, a number that made UW-Madison the top doctoral-degree-conferring institution in the U.S. in 2017. That’s according to the most recent data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is conducted by a group of federal departments and organizations.
“I knew that we graduated a lot of PhDs,” said Goldberg, who is now back at UW-Madison as an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and an affiliate faculty member at the Center for Healthy Minds. “I didn’t know that we were the largest, but it doesn’t entirely surprise me.”
Nor was William Karpus, dean of the UW-Madison Graduate School, surprised by the results. He said it reflects the university’s breadth of study and research: it has 165 graduate programs, all of which offer master’s degrees, and many of which offer doctorates. UW-Madison ranked second in doctoral conferment in 2016 and third in 2015.

Officials Welcome Proposal to Fully Fund School Breakfast

Gov. Tony Evers’ budget calls for the Legislature to fully fund the school-breakfast program along with the school-milk program.

Research shows beginning a school day with breakfast helps kids stay focused, yet the state has failed to help public-school districts and private and tribal schools address this problem during the past decade, according the Evers administration.

Federal and state funding has been stagnant. In Wisconsin, the school-breakfast and school-milk programs were cut 10 percent in the 2011-13 budget, and that money was never restored, said Dan Rossmiller with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

The School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin reports the average school district charges less than $1.50 for breakfast.

“If you go shopping at home, you know that putting on a meal for $1.50 is pretty hard,” said association President Michael Gasper. “So we count on those reimbursements from the government – both from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the state.”

The Evers administration projects that increasing school-breakfast funding would cost the state roughly $5.6 million in the next two years, while the school-milk program would cost about $765,000.

Budget Includes Rail-Service Expansion

Gov. Tony Evers included $45 million in his state budget proposal to expand rail service between Milwaukee and Chicago on the busy Amtrak Hiawatha line.  

The money would provide funds that could be used to match federal grants to complete road improvements that are needed before service could increase from the current seven daily round trips to 10 daily round trips.

The project’s total cost is approximately $195 million, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

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