Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Rising Cost of Education, Higher Turnover, Disappearing Rural Schools thanks to Act 10.

I liked what we had for public education; the unions, the pay scales, the benefits and the profession itself. Change was good too. And I’m all for higher teacher pay. Public education was something we could count on. Not anymore.

Privatization and union busting have turned education from something amazingly reliable and predictable into an industry with winners, loser, profits and losses. Our kids are described as “commodities,” and every school is, in the words of Tony the Tiger, “terrrrific,” if you believe their exciting colorful brochures.

In an amazingly hypocritical about face over what used to be described as exorbitant teacher pay and benefits, Republicans are now all for it, embracing teacher bidding wars between schools and districts. It’s all good now because it’s based on the “free market,” to hell with saving taxpayer money.

The Wisconsin StateJournal editorialized, "A marketplace for good teachers is good for public education," completely reversing the right wings 50 year arguments against public education:
The most sought-after school teachers across Wisconsin are now enjoying large pay raises, signing bonuses and what some school administrators are calling “free agency.” That’s a better system than the old way of compensating teachers based largely on years of experience and advanced degrees.

State Journal education reporter Molly Beck reported in Sunday’s newspaper that public school teachers licensed in high-demand fields such as science, technology and engineering are being recruited and retained with financial incentives. And the money for top teachers doesn't have to come out of other teachers’ pockets. In Oregon, for example, the district may ask voters in April for $3.5 million to provide raises.

This is progress, because it helps get the best teachers where they’re needed and valued most. Act 10 has hurt Wisconsin in some ways. It pulled our politics even further apart. It pitted citizens against one another. It hurt morale for educators and chased some out of the field, or stopped others from entering.

But in giving local school boards more freedom to compensate teachers in new ways, Act 10 has helped.
Imagine the shortage of teachers in low demand subjects. Would all this just make public education more expensive? Wouldn't wealthy districts have an advantage over all the other districts, like rural schools, who by the way are struggling to survive. Cap Times* reporter Matt Pommer wrote this recently about rural schools:
The Assembly Task Force on Rural Schools … report  … cited high costs of busing students in sparsely populated areas, technology needs, lack of access to broadband internet, and recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. Often the rural districts go to the voters to exceed spending limits. These districts lose money because there are fewer students to count and they look richer “because there is more property value behind the remainder of their students,” State School Superintendent Tony Evers notes.
And most important, relating to the topic at hand:
The task force was told rural district teachers earn about 15 percent less than teachers in urban and suburban districts. Teacher often leave rural districts for higher pay in other parts of the state. 
And then there's the increased teacher turnover. jsonline-Erin Richards:
-In the summer of 2013, hundreds of veteran teachers retired from Milwaukee Public Schools, many taking advantage of the favorable terms of expiring contracts.

-One year later … there's been another, even greater, spike in teachers leaving. But those walking away now are predominantly educators with three or fewer years of experience

-MPS officials say … "There is a national trend toward not staying with the same employer for decades."

-Some teachers get a taste of today's workplace and leave education entirely … pressures and politics of the job have heightened in recent years … it's common to hear teachers say they feel disrespected by the public, unsupported by their administration and beaten up by parents.

-Act 10 has created an open market for teachers, which makes it harder for districts to retain staff with sought-after skills. "Everyone is talking about resignation rates, they're higher everywhere in the past several years," Johnna Noll, director of instructional services at the West Allis-West Milwaukee Public Schools said.
These are Act 10's "unintended consequences." 

*direct link to article not found.


  1. I think quite a few of those consequences were intended, actually.
    And I am still wondering about falling enrollment in teaching programs in WI. I think that will be the next unintended consequence.

  2. I am a part of a group that is documenting the disastrous effects of Act 10 on teachers in Wisconsin. Soon we will launch a database comparison of the impact of Act 10 on teachers' working conditions, compensation, and benefits for over 50 school districts in SE Wisconsin. As we grow our volunteer researchers, we will expand our database to every school district in Wisconsin. Not reported by any mainstream media outlet (which are all 100% pro-Walker) is the fact that 1 week prior to the start of school, there were still over 1000 vacant fulltime teaching positions across Wisconsin (as compared to 338 in Minnesota) We are also tracking thousands of mid-career, highly experienced teachers who have fled Wisconsin for nearby states. No wonder there is a teacher shortage in Wisconsin.