The Spooner school district saw 25 percent of its faculty retire, resign, or not have their contract renewed this year, and the Madison and Milwaukee districts are also losing high numbers of teachers, as Paul Doro reported for Urban Milwaukee. Experts say there will be a huge number of openings to fill in the coming years because 22 percent of the state’s current teaching base is aged 55 or older.Murphy goes on to quote most of those same deans giving the same reason for this shortage – Act 10, which lowered take-home pay for teachers (in a time when the economy has improved and more job options are available), and brought to light regressive, anti-education attitudes from Gov Scott Walker and his supporters. Many college students simply believe it’s not worth the hassle to try to become a teacher in 2010s Wisconsin.
Meanwhile, the supply of new teachers is shrinking, providing fewer new teaching applicants. At UW-Oshkosh, which has one of the state’s largest teacher training programs, the number of students majoring in education has declined by 25 percent over a four year period.
UW-Milwaukee’s School of Education has seen a 23 percent decrease in enrollment in a five-year period from more than 3,000 in 2010 to a little more than 2,300 in 2015, as Jeremy Page, assistant dean of student services in the School of Education, told Urban Milwaukee. Marquette’s College of Education has decreased steadily, from 445 students in 2010 to 385 in 2014, the JS reported.
UW-Stevens Point has seen an 18 percent decline in students are studying to become teachers. “In fall 2010 we had about 1,409 students, now we have about 1,150 students,” the university’s head of education Patricia Caro told WAOW.com, the ABC affiliate in North Central Wisconsin.
Even before this school year, Wisconsin had seen a significant drop in staffing and funding for its K-12 public schools, turning a state that used to be a leader in investing in education into a mediocre one that is being passed by many other places. The Wisconsin Budget Project released a report today with several statistics noting these changes.
To add to that final chart, the Budget Project notes that many longtime teachers left the profession after Act 10 became law, which lowered the cumulative level of experience in the classroom compared to a decade ago.
Teachers in Wisconsin school districts have less experience than they did a few years ago. In the 2013-14 school year, the teaching staff of 39% of school districts had an average of 15 or more years of teaching experience. That share has fallen dramatically since the 2004-05 school year, when 58% of school districts had teaching staff with and average of 15 years or more experience. Most of the decline in the average number of years of teaching experience occurred in the 2011-12 school year, after lawmakers passed changes that limited the ability of teachers and other public employees to collectively bargain for salary increases, and boosted the amount of money that teachers contribute to their health insurance and retirement benefit costs. (aka Act 10)And these changes were what hap0pened before the current state budget took effect this July. The Budget Project notes that there are items in this budget that make Wisconsin likely to slide down these rankings even more in future years.
In the state budget that runs from July 2015 through June 2017, lawmakers approved an increase of about 2% for K-12 education in Wisconsin, compared to the previous budget period. Much of that money was allotted in a way that will prohibit schools from using it to educate students in classrooms. Instead, schools will be required to use much of that money to offset property taxes and to funnel money to private schools to pay tuition costs for students participating in the state’s school voucher program. In the 2015-17 state budget, lawmakers approved an expansion of the state’s school voucher program, which will drain an estimated $600 million to $800 million from public schools over the next decade, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.Huh, it’s almost like the Walker/WisGOP destruction of Wisconsin’s high-quality and high-service public schools is by design. Like they want the schools to fail so they can privatize the school system even more, selling it off to their campaign contributors so it can be run at a profit, and drive down the skill level and critical thinking ability of whoever decides to stay in the state.
In the budget, lawmakers also limited property tax increases by freezing the amount of money per student that Wisconsin school districts may take in between the combination of general state aid and property taxes. In general, school districts will not be able to increase property taxes to deal with increases in fuel costs, to address maintenance needs, or to help deal with other rising costs. As spending capacity lags behind educational needs, many districts will be forced to reduce academic offerings, further reduce salaries for experienced teachers, or find other ways to cut corners.
At the same time lawmakers were approving minimal increases in state support for public schools and tight controls school budgets, they were focused on cutting taxes. In the 2015-17 budget, lawmakers passed tax cuts that will reduce tax revenue by more than $250 million a year when fully implemented, draining revenue that could be used to help Wisconsin’s public schools educate the next generation of workers.
Nah, that can’t be it, can it….?