Monday, September 2, 2019

Another Wisconsin school year means more problems finding Wisconsin teachers

With today being Labor Day, that means another school year starts tomorrow. And as we've continue to see in the post-Act 10 Wisconsin, it's getting harder to find enough teachers to adequately staff the classrooms.

The Capital Times had a big article last week titled "Classroom exodus", and among many disturbing findings in the article, it says that the pipeline for new teachers continues to dry up.
In interviews with several officials at schools of education in Wisconsin, the Cap Times found efforts to more aggressively recruit students into their programs to reverse what state officials estimate is a near-30% decline in students enrolled in teacher education programs since 2010.

Several people who recently participated in teacher preparation programs described a variety of experiences that led them to or away from teaching, including not feeling supported nor included by their peers. Many students also took note when they saw other teachers resign or retire early from the field, a record-setting trend that has persisted in Madison in the last several years.

In 2018, the education professionals’ group Phi Delta Kappa found in its annual poll, for the first time since 1969, that a majority of adults would not want their children to become public school teachers.

In 2019, 55% of teachers surveyed in the PDK poll also said they would not want their children to enter the teaching profession.
And why aren't people wanting to teach? Tim Slekar is the Dean of Edgewood College's School of Education, and he thinks it's pretty simple.
“Because I have fewer students who want to be teachers and more teachers who want to leave, this is why I question using the term ‘shortage.’ It kind of just tells people that there’s nothing wrong with the system and we just have to incentivize it better,” he said. “There aren’t any incentives that are making people want to become teachers.”
Among those incentives could include raising teacher pay, but that's a problem in Wisconsin because school districts are limited in how much revenue they can raise, so there isn't a lot of money available to give to current and future teachers.

And during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan from 2011-2019, there was less money coming from the state but many places weren't allowed to make up the difference. Even more so when the ALEC Crew started doing this as a payback to Betsy DeVos and other donors.

The Gannett chain in Wisconsin also mentioned the teacher shortage recently, centering the story in the small Northern Wisconsin town of Wabeno. And not surprisingly, 2011's Act 10 is a big reason why this small district is having a hard time competing for teaching talent.
When the changes hit Wisconsin schools, many veteran educators retired under the terms of their expiring collective bargaining agreements.

For younger and mid-career teachers, the new law spurred them to move. A lot. Teachers fled urban districts, like Milwaukee, for the suburbs. Teachers left rural districts for larger districts that paid more.

“We also have teachers that are leaving the state because they can find a better deal,” said [Jeffrey] Walsh, the Wabeno superintendent. In nearby Michigan and Minnesota, for instance, union protections are still in place for teachers.
This is why "supply-and-demand" is a really bad strategy for any public good like education or health or roads, by the way. Because it puts lower-resourced areas at a massive disadvantage for things that no Wisconsinite or American should be given second-class treatment for.

But there are other reasons that fewer people want to become teachers in post-Walker Wisconsin, as the Cap Times article notes.
An Education Week survey of a nationally representative group of 500 teachers last year showed a number of reasons why teachers left their jobs, and money wasn’t everything.

In the survey results, 18% of respondents said leadership is a key piece in their decisions to stay or leave, whereas 17% of respondents saw school climate as an important factor in their decisions. Salaries were a consideration for 17% of respondents as well. The level of autonomy to teach what a teacher thinks is best was the fourth-most noted consideration at 8%.

That leaves a significant portion of teachers — more than half — citing non-financial reasons in their decisions to leave.
Perhaps some of that reason has to do with this 2018 Governor's map.

And this 2016 election result.

If you value education and decency in a society, why would you want to live in around people that would vote for anti-education thugs like Trump and Walker?

So as the 2019-20 school year kicks off, it's increasingly difficult to find highly-educated people to go into education, and especially finding one that will live in parts of the state that don't exactly seem welcoming to people with the values that drive people into education as a career. Maybe the installation of a teacher as Governor will lead to a change in attitude, and it certainly led to a $570 million increase in state funding in this upcoming budget that allows for some more resources to districts (albeit still under revenue limits).

But it's a long road back from the damage that was done to K-12 education in this state in the 2010s, and that's likely why a lot of kids will see crowded classrooms when they go through the doors tomorrow.

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