CHICAGO — Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who began building a national profile four years ago by sharply cutting collective bargaining rights for most government workers, has turned his sights to a different element of the public sector: state universities.
As Mr. Walker takes steps toward announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, he and leaders in Wisconsin’s Republican-held Legislature have called for changes that would give a board largely picked by the governor far more control over tenure and curriculum in the University of Wisconsin System.
Critics said the proposal, which is championed by Republicans in the Legislature, would burnish Mr. Walker’s conservative credentials as he is scrutinized by likely primary voters.
As a new and unknown governor in 2011, Mr. Walker quickly drew national attention by announcing legislation to limit collective bargaining rights for most public-sector unions and require workers to pay more for their health care and pensions.
He followed that battle — which included surviving a recall effort — by signing other measures that attracted notice from conservatives nationally: new limits on early voting, the expansion of school vouchers and, this year, legislation barring unions from requiring employees in private workplaces to pay the equivalent of union dues.
Republicans say the new proposal will give university leaders more autonomy and encourage savings and efficiency at a moment when the state is aiming to cut spending to balance its budget. But the plan has caused professors to express alarm.
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