Most of the money spent by public schools goes to pay the salaries of teachers and other people who help educate students and keep schools running, such as social workers, teacher aides, and janitors. Wisconsin schools spent $6,241 on salaries per student in 2014, down 5.5% from 2005. Nationally, spending on salaries per student fell 1.8% over this period.But last decade, Wisconsin teachers could at least compensate for their lower-than-average salaries with great benefits, but as the Budget Project mentions, those benefits have been whittled away in the post-Act 10 world.
Wisconsin schools spend less per student on salaries than the national average. In 2005, Wisconsin schools spent 0.5% less per student on salaries than the national average, ranking 19th among the states. In 2014, Wisconsin’s ranking had dropped to 23rd, and Wisconsin schools spent 4.3% less per student on salaries than the national average. Only ten states had larger percentage declines than Wisconsin in school spending on salaries per student over this period.
Wisconsin schools spent $2,834 on employee benefits per student in 2014, down 11.3% from 2005. Wisconsin had the largest decline of any state in school spending on benefits over this period. Nationally, spending on benefits per student increased by 21.8% over this period.This means that Wisconsin ranks a mediocre 23rd in the nation in “total package” compensation, and then add on the fact that teachers are the ones who ended up taking on much of the burden of paying for those benefits over the last decade, meaning they took home less of their already subpar salaries.
As anyone with a middle school knowledge in supply-and-demand can guess, when you are less competitive on compensating employees, you tend to have problems in finding qualified workers. And the Budget Project says a survey of districts from the State Department of Public Instruction bears that out, especially in fields like math and science where jobs in other fields that use those skills often pay well above what schools will give to teachers.
As you notice, the shortages are even more pronounced in the more rural northern half of the state, and the Budget Project says that districts have to turn to extraordinary measures to get someone in front of the classroom.
The teacher shortages were most severe in northern Wisconsin. School districts in Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 — an area that stretches across the top part of the state from just north of Green Bay to just south of Eau Claire — faced extreme shortages in 56% of instances analyzed, compared to 46% in the remainder of the state. This analysis includes 1,153 instances in which a school district had at least one vacancy for teachers with licensure for early childhood-middle childhood, math, science, English, social studies, technology/engineering, agriculture, foreign languages, business, music, art and physical education.Perversely, whenever you have such a shortage in available workers for public service, this requires MORE tax dollars to be shelled out to make competitive offers to the few teachers that do want the job, especially when it’s in a small Wisconsin town that may not have much to offer in terms of quality of life.
Most school districts were able to successfully hire for open positions, but many districts indicated they lowered standards to be able to hire an educator. School districts used a variety of ways to address the teacher shortages they faced, with the most-used strategies including:
•Lowering standards. In hiring for about one out of five vacancies, districts hired a teacher below the desired standard of experience or quality;
•Employing a teacher on an emergency permit or licensure, meaning that the teacher was teaching outside his or her area of expertise;
•Offering financial incentives, such as a signing bonus or a higher salary, to candidates;
•Filling a vacancy with a substitute teacher; and
•Giving another teacher an overload assignment.
Which is why it is all the more important to fund public schools at the state level, especially in smaller and/or poorer communities which don’t have the tax base and amenities that richer, more connected, and safer communities do. Instead, this state has gone the exact opposite way, using the one-time Act 10 “savings” to cut taxes, and funnel money away from public schools, sending the taxpayer dollars to unaccountable voucher schools. Which causes the downward spiral to continue, and for property taxes to go up in these underserved communities to try to make up the difference.
But of course, this type of teacher shortage is all part of the ALEC/GOP plan, to make education such a thankless, lesser-paid job that fewer college-educated people want to do it. Then that can be excused into more DeVos/Bradley-style privatization because the quality of public education inevitably declines (or at least is perceived to be declining).
And that trend has to be stopped NOW, beginning with the upcoming election for State Superintendent of Schools. When you see sellout hack John Humphries having a fundraiser with Bradley Foundation paymaster Michael Grebe, WEDC appointees, right-wing stink tankers, and pro-voucher legislators, that’s more than you need to know to run the other way, and get behind Tony Evers in both February and April.
If you don’t, your local community school (and much of your community itself) will be DONE. Good luck seeing this state's property values, talent base and livability improve with that happening!