Monday, April 25, 2016

Just like ALEC planned- less Wisconsin teachers, and less want to be

In today's edition of "Gee, whaddya know?", the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel took a deep dive into a recently-released report which gives hard numbers behind teacher staffing in Wisconsin, and how those ranks are being thinned in the post-Act 10 world. While the results of the Public Policy Forum’s report aren’t surprising, they do illustrate that teachers are leaving the profession in higher numbers, both in the Milwaukee area, and statewide.

Among the findings:

■ Wisconsin saw a spike in departures between the 2010-’11 and 2011-’12 school years. Act 10, the state law restricting bargaining rights for public employees, including teachers, took effect in the intervening summer. But the report could not definitively point to the law as the cause.

■ Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest district, lost 9% to 15.4% of its teachers annually over a four-year period. But others, including Waukesha and several in rural communities, saw higher rates.

■ While departing teachers tended to be retirement age, more than a third in the Milwaukee area were in their 20s and 30s. New teachers with less than five years of experience were the second-largest group to leave.

■ More than a fourth of the teaching workforce in metro Milwaukee is over 50, suggesting that departures will increase, and about 62% of the replacement teachers come in with no prior experience.
Making this situation worse is that there is a smaller amount of potential teachers entering the pipeline. The PPF report goes on to report that enrollment in the state’s college teacher education programs has declined significantly in the 2010s.
A casual look at the data shows the number of students enrolled in teacher preparation programs has declined sharply over the [2008-2014] period. Statewide, enrollment levels have fallen 27.9%, from 12,323 students in the 2008-09 school year. Public universities saw the biggest impact of the decline with enrollments falling 31.5% over the six years. Private colleges experienced a decline of 18.2% over the same period. Indeed, 28 of the 41 programs in the sample saw enrollments fall since 2008-09.

Looking at individual programs, UW-Oshkosh was affected the most, with enrollment falling by 1,526 students (70.1%) since 2008-09. UW-Whitewater and UW-Eau Claire also experienced large decreases of 679 and 272 students, respectively. Some colleges appear to have added students over time, though enrollments have declined from their peak. For example, UW-Milwaukee had

499 students enrolled in its program in 2013-14, an increase of 251 students compared to 2008-09. However, enrollments fell by nearly 50% from a peak of 962 students in 2010-11.
The PPF paper is careful not to directly blame Act 10 for this decrease, claiming that the real decline didn’t start until 2012-13 (a year after Act 10 was passed) and that other Midwestern states also had declines in teacher education programs. But this is easy to explain, as students who were sophomores and juniors in 2010-11 (when the Act 10 “bomb” was dropped) would be likely to continue with their major instead of changing gears and having to likely take more time to complete their degrees. Once those students left, and once Governor Walker was retained in the June 2012 recall election, it became evident that Act 10 provisions would remain in place, and students adjusted their careers afterwards.

It’s also not surprising that other Midwestern schools would see declines in teacher education programs in the 2010s. As this chart from a 2014 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, Wisconsin may have had the largest cut in inflation-adjusted K-12 spending per student in the Midwest between 2008-2014 at over 15%, but Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan also had cuts ranging from between 8.6% and 11.7%, putting all those states in the “top” 20 for cuts per student.

This translated into a sizable drop in local government employment in the first half of the 2010s. Students attending college at that time would rightfully have seen that other areas of the economy were hiring more than education was, and likely shifted their career choices that direction.

The double-whammy in Wisconsin is that Act 10 also reduced take-home pay for teachers and condoned right-wingers and local yokels to denigrate the profession, making that career choice for teaching less worthwhile in take-home pay and satisfaction. It’s almost like the rules of supply and demand don’t just affect business owners, but they also have an effect on what potential workers choose to do as well. Imagine that!

Unfortunately, the Public Policy Forum’s study ends with the 2013-14 school year, which means it does not measure the added cuts to public education and increased voucherization that has happened in Fitzwallkerstan since that time. As the CBPP notes, Wisconsin was the only state in the Midwest to continue to cut funding for K-12 education in 2015-16, and had the 4th-largest cuts to K-12 schools in the country, going against the nationwide trend of restoring funding to public schools.

So with K-12 teachers aging and a lack of new college graduates on the horizon to replace them, how can schools keep on having classrooms staffed at an adequate level? One of WisGOP's answers: Lower the standards of becoming a teacher! Remember this from last year, after a UW-Madison student delivered a petition with over 37,000 signatures protesting licensing “reforms”?
Under the proposal, the Department of Public Instruction would be required to give a teaching license to anyone with a bachelor’s degree in core subject areas like English, math, social studies and science. People who demonstrated knowledge in non-core subjects also would be eligible for a teaching license, even if they didn’t have a bachelor’s degree.

“Nobody, nobody wants to lower the licensure standards for teaching in Wisconsin,” [UW-Madison education student Briana] Schwabenbauer told [Edgewood College professor Jed] Hopkins and Tim Slekar, dean of the Edgewood School of Education, on their on their BustEd Pencils podcast.

“It’s become a movement,” said Schwabenbauer. “We’ve built up this momentum around the idea that we need higher standards in our education system and to meet those standards we need to push our educators, not discourage them from going into education.”

Hours after a press conference announcing the delivery of Schwabenbauer’s petition, Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, announced her proposal was being redrafted.

Czaja told the Wisconsin State Journal that under new language being drafted, individuals receiving the proposed alternative teaching licenses and permits could work only part time and in one school. The revised proposal would also require anyone teaching in a non-core subject area to have at least a high school diploma, something not included in the original language.
The proposal was eventually modified to allow for “experience-based” teacher licensing in certain STEM and technical fields, and to allow for reciprocity with other states if the teacher had at least one year of teaching experience in that other state. But you can see where this is heading, and if the ALEC/GOPs maintain control of the State Legislature after November’s elections, I have little doubt this proposal to lower teaching license standards gets resurrected to handle the “crisis” that is resulting from fewer people wishing to become teachers.

And that’s all part of the ALEC plan, isn’t it? Defund public schools, lower the status of the teaching profession, discourage some of the best and brightest from pursuing it as a career plan, and then use that as the excuse to say “See! Public schools aren’t working these days!” This allows for an excuse to funnel more taxpayer money into private schools, whose operators (and churches) kick some of that money back to them in campaign assistance. Combine that with stupid tax policies that starve the state of revenues and leads to more budget crises and K-12 public education cuts, and the cycle starts all over again.

It’ll only stop when we remove the scummy politicians and their ALEC puppetmasters from the Capitol. Know this, and act accordingly.


  1. Jake, are there data on per student expenditures scaled to cost of living by state? I can imagine our friends arguing that the reductions we are seeing represent a realignment for some states that were not being efficient with their expenditures. There may also be other demographic factors: young families fleeing state for better prospects, therefore declining school age population?

    1. Im sure there are cost of living indexes out there, but the CBPP numbers are cuts/increases within the same state. So if anything, Wisconsin lokely looks worse there.

      As for school age population- the PPF has those numbers as well, and (going from memory) Wisconsin's enrollment numbers went slightly down in early 2010s, and have gone slightly up since then, so student-to-teacher ratios are up overall.

      PS- Your friends are out of excuses at this point. These are conscious choices to destroy public education in Wisconsin