Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Wisconsin’s Growing Teacher Shortage

The number of education majors and teaching candidates is drastically declining. Why?

By - Aug 20th, 2015 12:41 pm
Rufus King. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Rufus King. Photo by Christopher Hillard.

Across the state there are reports of growing problems for school districts trying to fill vacant teaching positions and universities trying to attracting education majors. The La Crosse School District needs to fill 23 different positions, “but the district said that’s proving to be difficult because the number of applicants continues to drop each year,” in LaCrosse reports.

But that isn’t the only district coming up empty, the story noted. “I have received increased e-mails and communications from superintendents and principals about openings,” Marcie Wycoff-Horn, director of the college of education at UW-La Crosse, told the TV station. As of early August the education job website WECAN had listings for more than 2,000 teaching jobs, “a number experts say is high for this close to the school year,” Madison TV channel 3000 reported.

Four times this summer, the Waukesha School District had to post the same opening for a high school position teaching biology and chemistry, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The West Allis-West Milwaukee School District experienced “shallow or nonexistent” pools of candidates for teaching jobs in family and consumer services, physics and chemistry, district officials told the paper.

Prof. Diana Hess, now Dean of the School Education at UW-Madison, told Wisconsin Public Radio there is a teacher shortage across the state in both urban and rural school districts. “Even though we don’t know the exact figures… we are hearing from school districts that this late in the summer, they still have vacancies that they haven’t filled, and that’s really unusual,” she said.

Percy Brown, director of equity and student achievement at Middleton High School in Dane County, told Madison radio station WKOW the school is “struggling” to fill its business education positions — “and the reason for that is – why would someone want to be a teacher and make $35,000 a year, when they can go into the private sector and make $55,000.”

Officials from the Yorkville, Whitewater and Elkhorn school districts say they are having trouble finding substitute teachers, and officials in the Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac, Rosendale-Brandon, and Green Lake school districts face the problem as well.

The problem is likely get worse because the number of teachers that needs to be replaced is getting bigger. “We’ve seen a reduction in teacher salaries and because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements, but because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” Brown said.

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.

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, the ABC affiliate in North Central Wisconsin.

Why the sudden decline in the supply of teachers? Steve Salerno, associate superintendent of human resources for the La Crosse School District, told that until 2011 the district had virtually no issues trying to fill an open position, but since then, trying to find a teacher or even a teaching assistant has been been difficult. “At the height of Act 10 we began to see fewer and fewer people entering into the profession,” he said.

Brown blamed the reduction in compensation for teachers: “because of that you’ve seen more and more early retirements,” yet “because of the attack on the profession, it’s not as attractive to want to become a teacher,” he told WKOW. Caro, too, pointed to Act 10 as a key reason for the decline of teaching majors.

The reduction in compensation and security for teachers resulting from Act 10 comes at a time when recent college graduates are facing record student loan debt. The improvement in the economy also means more private sector jobs are available. Meanwhile, the criticisms directed at teachers may send a message to young people that teaching is not a valued or respected profession in Wisconsin.

What’s remarkable about this whole situation is that no one pushing for Act 10 and arguing that teachers earned too much ever presented any evidence to support this point. Indeed, Act 10 was simply the first step in a series of un-studied policy changes launched by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators.

No one had any idea gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker intended to propose Act 10. Walker had signaled he’d want greater contributions to pension and health insurance for state workers only, and never mentioned wanting this from teachers or municipal workers. In fact, his aide Ryan Murray wrote a deputy sheriff to assure him that “Scott’s plan (to require higher pension contributions) will apply to active state employees only” and “not to….teachers and local government employees.”

And when Walker justified Act 10, he repeatedly said the state’s taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for better benefits for public employees than they themselves received. Not once did Walker point to a study of comparable jobs to suggest teachers were overpaid compared to other white collar workers in this state or nationally.

The reality is that Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson had imposed state limits on school spending and teachers union arbitrations to steadily reduce teacher salaries. In the late 1980s, Wisconsin spent 47 percent more than the average state in per-pupil expenditures and average teacher salaries here ranked among the top 10 states. By 2007-08, Wisconsin had dropped to nearly the national median in school spending, and Wisconsin average teacher salary ranked 23rd nationally, at 93 percent of the average pay nationally.

So it would hardly be surprising if the significant reduction in compensation for teachers passed in 2011, along with the end of their collective bargaining rights and a reduction in the stature and prestige of the job, might reduce the supply of teachers. Add to that the increase in voucher schools, which means more cheap schools with much lower salaries replacing public schools, and there are many reasons that students might see teaching as a less attractive option in Wisconsin.

In Indiana, where the number of people obtaining a teaching license fell by more than 50 percent since 2010, critics of the state’s policies have blamed the growth of private school vouchers and widespread bashing of public school teachers by Hoosier elected officials. Indiana also passed a law reducing collective bargaining rights. Two legislators there have asked for a study of why the teacher shortage of teachers has arisen.

But Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Idea once married academic research to public policy, now prefers government by whim. Walker and Republican legislators clearly see that school districts are having problems attracting teachers, but their solution is to simply lower standards for the profession.

A proposed budget item would have allowed anyone with a bachelor’s degree to be hired and licensed to teach sixth- through 12th-grade English, math, social studies or science, and would have allowed any person with relevant experience — even a high school dropout — to teach in any other non-core academic subject in those grades. The final budget cut the first item but allowed the reduction in standards for teachers of non-core subjects.

As the teacher shortage grows, how will state leaders respond? Based on the last four years of policymaking, you can expect more proposals – with no study of the possible consequences — to reduce standards for the profession.

55 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Wisconsin’s Growing Teacher Shortage”

  1. Kurt says:

    I’m stealing this from someone else, but should be no surprise that after years and years of demonizing teachers, we now have a shortage of good ones. You get the system you pay for.

  2. AG says:

    It was teachers unions and their supporters that took the conversation from realigning teacher benefits during the recession to “demonizing” teachers. They reap what they sow.

    That being said, lets see some hard statistics on the shortage and see what happens after the ACT10 retirements level out. From there, districts and their residents can decide what sort of equilibrium in pay is appropriate to attract the level of talent they want. Ignoring that Wisconsin still ranks as the 8th highest paying state for teachers when adjusted for cost of living, perhaps they could look at paying high demand subject teachers more than lower demand? ACT10 now gives the flexibility to make common sense changes like that.

  3. John says:


    You presume that many school districts have the budget to go about bidding salaries for in demand fields. Many don’t as a result of the continued effort to provide less State funds to school districts. This could also lead wealthy districts with healthy tax bases and budgets to poach the best and brightest.

  4. Steve says:

    @AG it must be nice to have such a cavalier attitude about education. The parents that need their student to take chemistry or physics prior to entering college can’t wait. Nor can they afford to have another science of math teacher take a quick emergency license to teach one class outside of his or her expertise. And you speak of teachers and their reps as if they are a different species. Teachers are human, part of the community, and there may even, gasp, be one in your family somewhere. What were the “tools” those districts were given? Saws? They could have used hammers and nails to construct something, not just cut, cut, cut. Their funds were cut along with their ability to raise funds locally.

    “Realign benefits.” Ha! Imagine if the current administration had pursued a program to actually reduce medical costs versus eliminating them for workers. We may all have been better off.

  5. Marie says:

    Teaching is a hard enough profession but teachers are often bolstered by intangible rewards, like pride in helping students, appreciation and respect for what they do. Being demonized does nothing to recommend a profession and can dishearten all but the most thick-skinned.

  6. Gee says:



    Cite evidence that teachers unions initiated the teacher-bashing.

  7. AG says:

    @John: I presume no such thing. Although it’s easy to say in a few sentences, it’s not easily done in practice. I do get that. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And regarding the wealthy districts poaching, isn’t that why we have the state funding formula to even those things out?

    @Steve: Same statement I made to John, I understand the difficulties of the situation. Your comment is a perfect example of the turnabout made during these conversations. A person can not talk about the realities of what is going on without being told they think teachers are not human. I was going to ask if you really think I do not respect teachers or what they do… but I’m pretty sure you are indeed convinced of that.

    Regarding science and math teachers, I agree, we can’t wait. We had this shortage long before ACT10. However, now we can finally take steps, such as paying them more than positions less in demand, that we couldn’t before. Same with healthcare… many districts saved money by not being locked into union health insurance. Otherwise, wasn’t the ACA supposed to bring down costs for everyone? Hm…

    @Gee: See Steve’s comment. I say nothing about my respect or lack of respect for teachers, yet he has jumped to saying I believe them not human. That’s been how this debate has gone since the beginning.

  8. A busdriver says:

    I can’t imagine why there is a shortage of teachers in Wisconsin. Could it have something to do with Scooter’s Act 10 among other things. This not just a problem in Wisconsin but in other Rep lead states. Why do they hate education so much? Why would you want to dumb down? I think those of us that are not dumb already know. They need to remember that the dummies they create now will be the ones in charge of things that affect them later.

  9. Bruce Murphy says:

    AG, while its true the state funding formula is structured to provide more to poorer districts, it never came close to equalizing differences in spending by districts and the formula has been getting watered down for more than 15 years. So yes, teachers can be recruited away from lower paying districts and I suspect more of that has gone on since Act 10.

  10. Andy Umbo says:

    Same thing in Indiana/Indianapolis. It’s actually been in the paper for a few weeks now. Altho no one particularly ‘demonizes’ teachers here, they certainly don’t make as much, nor have the benefits, as they did in Milwaukee. Most articles down here say they’re fleeing to states that aren’t taking on Bushes system of pre-training kids for Republican business owners wage-slavery needs.

  11. PMD says:

    AG your head is in the sand on this one. There is a ton of data to support the contention that there is a growing teacher shortage, and you reply with “but ACT 10 was needed, and I don’t dislike teachers.” That’s great. I sure hope you like and respect teachers, and regardless of one’s opinion on the necessity of ACT 10, the simple fact is that there is a growing teacher shortage problem in this state. Maybe not at the school your children attend, and if that’s the case, consider yourself lucky. But your refusal to acknowledge the problem, its seriousness, and the negative long-term consequences is puzzling and foolish.

  12. Margaret says:

    And in the meantime, Kasich is running against teacher’s lounges, on the grounds that they provide easy places for teachers to get together and both about declining benefits and pay cuts. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Ohio too is suffering from a teacher shortage. After a while you begin to think, I just don’t want to work for people who say these things about me.

  13. David says:

    Republicans excel at a divide and conquer strategy and using hate, fear, racism, lies and deception, and crisis budgets they help create. Republicans have applied the tactics well for bashing teachers, people of lesser economic means, urban areas with more demographic color, unions, education, science and environment and workers in general to implement their corporate laws from ALEC.

    The divide and conquer strategy sown with their own corruption and pay to play politics has Wisconsin in a downward spiral and dead end. It is best shown by the #1 national standing in lost family income. People now have less to spend.

  14. Kurt says:

    To your first comment, the demonizing exisited long before Act 10. I’m not even really attributing this problem specifically to Act 10. I would attribute it to what has become a general anger at teachers by the radio right.

    As to your request for hard data, sometimes hard data doesn’t exist to fit the argument you’d like to make. I’m presenting an attitude that frankly is fairly obvious. To pretend it doesn’t exists absent hard data is disingenuous at best. Teaching as a profession is not attractive anymore. I like your theory that populations will suddenly start paying teachers more to mitigate this shortage but we both know that’s not how the general population views teachers. This is another race to the bottom.

    Financials aside, this is about attitude. Teachers and schools are being asked to do the parenting society won’t, all while being the punching bag of the radio right. I don’t blame any qualified individual for choosing another line of work.

  15. AG says:

    I think everyone should go back and read my first comment. I’m not denying there’s shortages for certain teachers and in certain geographic areas or things of that nature. I’m saying lets not look at anecdotal examples and instead get some hard data of what sort of shortage we’re looking at and where the demand is greatest. From there, we can use the new flexibility of ACT10 to address those challenges.

    The shortages have been around since before ACT10. However, these are shortages for certain types of teachers, in certain parts of the state, etc. I have friends who had multiple districts give them offers because they are biology/science teachers and special education teachers. At the same time I have other friends who are from a broader spectrum who had to find less appealing roles, private school positions, or did not enter the field at all because they were against a flood of competition.

    (Bruce, I do know there are many flaws with the funding formula, I was just bringing that up because in concept that’s what it is designed to do)

    I’d like to see hard data on what the full situation is.

  16. Timothy J Haering says:

    Bruce, teachers are not programmers and students are not computers. And teachers cannot overcome chronic occurrence of learning-unfriendly homes. Throw as much money at it as you like, the education solution will not be found in school funding or teacher qualifications. Einstein does not beget Einstein. In this season of doubt, try something anything, including alternative entry into teaching.

  17. Vince Jenkins says:

    Diana Hess is, as of 1 Aug., DEAN of the School of Education at UW-Madison, as well as a professor of Curriculum and Instruction.

  18. Sue says:

    Assuming we open up to ‘alternative entry’ employees, remember that once those alternatives come into the field they become… teachers. And Act 10 basically recognized, you could say codified, a lack of respect for teachers (and public employees). The highest political leader in the state, our governor (a public employee), put a contemptuous top-10 list about public employees in a book he wrote and didn’t think twice about it. That’s the truth of the situation right now. Teachers got what everyone thought they deserved and now we are getting what we should have expected. If teachers are leaving in droves because it’s such a thankless job, where are we going to find 2000 alternative entry employees, and more as the shortage continues?
    And let’s not forget that Act 10 was all about giving tools to school boards to deal with teachers and their unions. I predict that many school boards, who might in the recent past have decided that a Master’s degree was not reason enough for higher compensation, will suddenly see that alternative entry employees should not be eligible for the same compensation as ‘real’ teachers because they lack the appropriate education. Dollars will continue to be the primary factor and focus.

  19. jack says:

    Schools full of warm bodies “teaching”, led by retail management dropouts, should be able to deliver quality education, right? After all, they have been trained.

  20. daniel golden says:

    AG; I have two observations: If your comment that Wisconsin teachers are 8th in compensation in the nation when adjusted for cost of living is correct, it would appear that Wisconsin has one of the lowest COL’ s in the country, since no one disputes that the average teacher in Wisconsin is paid slightly below the national average currently. What is your source for this assertion? Secondly, were not the Republicans the loudest supporters of paying bonuses to the Wall Street banksters who crashed the economy, (out of federal rescue dollars), during the Bush regime, because ” we have to pay to keep the best on the job during this mess”? It will take decades to repair the damage done by the reptilian brained tea GOP politicians who have seized control of government in this state.

  21. Randall Mastin says:

    Unfortunately Ag seems to thing the “tools” that Act 10 gives school districts helps. The facts are while money was cut from education and money was taken from teachers, school districts we barred from raising taxes. There are no creative ways to add salary to attract new teachers without cutting programs or reducing salaries of other teachers. Here is a fact for you. I am a teacher in Western Wisconsin. in 2011 we were paying a $500. deductible for our insurance. the next year it was $1000.00, and the next two years it was $2000.00. this year, a family plan pays a $4000.00 deducible. So maybe on paper teacher salaries might look the same but in reality we have seen a DRASTIC reduction in benefits and basically received a $3500.00 pay cut. I have been in this profession for 32 years. Durring the late 80s and 90s we were given the option of having more salary or more benefits since Tommy Thompson capped our salary and benefits package to 3% (QEO, qualified economic offer) per year. You didn’t automatically get that, you needed to negotiate it, but that was the most you could receive. Most of the time we choose health benefits s over salary because at least we would have that and a lot of us had young families. So now we had lower salaries, but it was our choice. Now that has been ripped away, our salaries have been frozen since 2010 AND our heath care has risen but a ridiculous amount. Next year it has been rumored we will face closer to a $6000.00 deductible. So…..what “tools” do you think teachers can use. It isn’t all about whining, if you received a $4000.00 pay cut and a frozen salary for 5 years you would probably look for employment elsewhere as well. if I were a younger teacher I would hike myself to Minnesota. My son wants to be a teacher. I advised him NOT to go to a UW school as the tuition will skyrocket in a couple years and DO NOT teacher in this cesspool for teachers state. I love the kids, I love teaching and I love the parents who support me. But all the armchair quarterbacks of education should look a little closer. School districts have been hamstrung and there is no wiggle room for them to negotiate anything.

  22. James Lowder says:

    The shortage also manifests in the number of teachers being put in front of classrooms for which they are not credentialed. In New Berlin’s high schools, that spiked from a statistical anomaly to fully 5% of the teaching staff a couple years ago. (Numbers for this are available on the DPI site.) And then there’s the churn, which encompasses building-level administrators, too. Three different principals at New Berlin Eisenhower in three years. My son has also had, for example, three different guidance counselors in three years and even three different teachers for a single honors English class, one of whom was not allowed to grade anything. The teacher apparently had never taught English before.

  23. Sue says:

    James Lowder, but at least you can rest easy knowing that the New Berlin school board is on top of the really important stuff, like making sure teachers have a dress code to follow.
    I mean, once you make sure those lady teachers wear their skirts below their knees, everything else will fall into place.

  24. Paul says:

    As a long time public education teacher and a Teacher Educator” I feel the answer to your rhetorical question has been answered quite effectively from the rest of the people who have commented. However to add my Two Cents, with teacher being continually ritticuled by their administrators, and lawmakers trying to do the best they can with as little moral support and supplied as they can, it is no wonder there is a teacher shortage not only in Wisconsin but for the most part the nation. I personally threw in the proverbial towl as a k-12 teacher and a Teacher Educator. I could no longer with my heart, honestly tell/convince young people that teaching is a noble professional occupation, even though it has never been for the faint of heart. So with the demise of the teacher educators hearts, the changes to the WI College system it is no wonder there is a shortage.

  25. John says:

    Great analysis, Bruce. …as always.

    Here’s a different article by noted economist Dean Baker:

  26. Marz says:

    It is about time we recognized that this is exactly what Scotty, ALEC, and their fellow travelers want to happen. Think of the great advantage to these would be dictators — voters snd workers too dumb and too poor to exert any resistance. They want ill-prepared, ineffective and overworked “teachers” — this shortage is NOT an unintended consequance.Act 10 is only marginally about money and mostly about securing ways to dumb down the public and reverse a long-standing commitment to the idea that a democracy requires an informed, educated populas.

  27. Frank Galvan says:

    Oh Scooter…you’ve done it again!

  28. Justin says:

    To Randall Mastin and all the older teachers (50+) in Wisconsin who wish they were younger and could move to Minnesota or somewhere else in America that still values teachers, I think that there will soon be an opportunity to do just that. Like most older teachers in Wisconsin, my district evaporated our collectively bargained district post-retirement insurance benefits in August 2011.

    Post Act 10 Wisconsin is now one of only 3 states in America with no tenure protections for older teachers to appeal unjust contract non-renewal and termination. Like many districts, my district is targeting older teachers who are within a few years of retirement for termination. 30+ years of excellent evaluations are followed by 1 year of poor evaluations and then termination. Older teachers across Wisconsin are facing this same discrimination in nearly every school district.

    Minnesota is in dire need of science, math, tech ed, and special ed teachers due to its booming economy. I am just a regular teacher in a Wisconsin school district, but have always been a leader in various capacities. This summer, I have been discussing the concept of establishing a program where highly experienced Wisconsin teachers would retire in Wisconsin and then become part of a formal program to finish their careers in Minnesota, sort of a Wisconsin Ambassadors program along the lines of Teach For America. I have been talking to several education advocacy groups in Minnesota to develop the idea. Instead of rookies with 6 weeks of “how to teach skool” training that is the foundation of Teach For America, the Wisconsin Ambassadors program would send highly experienced teachers who are at the zenith of their careers into Minnesota classrooms.

    The benefits to the teachers participating in this program would be enormous. Imagine working again in a state where teachers are actually appreciated and valued by the students, administrators, and the community in which they teach. No more name-calling, 24/7 teacher bashing on every AM radio station, being BlackListed because you supported the Walker recall. Teachers participating in this program would earn their WRS pension in addition to their salary and health insurance benefits from the district that employs them.

    This program is still in the conceptual stages, but those of us working on it see a great promise towards establishing a formal program to recruit and welcome highly experienced Wisconsin teachers to Minnesota schools to finish their careers. If we can put something together, this program would benefit Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the teachers themselves.

    Wisconsin would benefit by getting rid of the highest paid teachers, so that the average teaching salary would drop to $50,000 or less. Since the majority of Wisconsinites hate teachers, I would think that a program encouraging teachers to leave Wisconsin would be highly welcomed by most taxpayers.

    Minnesota, which has one of the best public education systems in the nation, would benefit by recruiting a group of highly experienced teachers who are motivated to leave a state where they have been demonized for years, had their salaries and benefits decimated, and in general, have been treated like crap. The opportunity to finish one’s teaching career in a state that still values good teachers is going to prove to be a great recruiting tool.

  29. AG says:

    Randall Mastin, yes I read the JSonline story that talked about the higher deductibles… and it also mentioned the wellness program that will pay for 75% of that. If you’re someone who spends more than $3000 a year on healthcare then yes, you’ll see more out of pocket. Having your healthcare 100% paid for in the past was probably quite nice, and I can imagine the transition to now paying some benefits is difficult to want to cope with. This is why I wish we would do more to control costs of healthcare itself so no one, government employee or private sector, would have to worry about rising healthcare costs.

    Justin, do you expect to gain sympathy for benefits being curtailed while at the same time organizing a program that flaunts the fact that government workers can retire during prime working years? That is a luxury that would be awesome to be able to implement everywhere. But if Greece and some other countries have shown us, that probably is not sustainable in the long run.

    Also, you said, ” Minnesota is in dire need of science, math, tech ed, and special ed teachers…” but in Minnesota it’s because of their economy and not because people in their state hate teachers? Convenient, that.

  30. Gee says:

    AG, go back to school and have teacher train you in reading comprehension to understand the question asked.

    And then, answer it.

    You did not do so. We know why.

    So, again, AG:


  31. Matt says:

    This isn’t about teachers per se. They all have college degrees, many have advanced degrees and it’s not that hard to find another low paying underappreciated position in the modern economy. Dropouts can be governor after all. The problem is that a lot of good teachers do not wish to be treated as suckers, as the good will of good people only goes so far when the government tries to solve all its problems by calling you names and grabbing your benefits. Teachers have options. If the politicians want to move the state down the educational quality list, well we elected them. And if our kids turn out even dumber than we are? Pretty darn apparent we care more about high school football than high school education anyway.

  32. Jimtherepublican says:

    So there’s a shortage? White Water turns out class after class of teacher. Many of whom can’t find work in their career because there is/was a glut. I don’t buy the shortage claims. I also don’t buy the claims that a huge number are leaving education for the private world. Teachers work 186 to 200 days per year. Private sector works about 250. Teachers have summers off while making the same income as people working year round. While paying into their health and retirement now, most private sector employees self fund their own 401K with a tiny match from the employer. Teachers can retire with 20 years of service with a full pension and benefits for life. They may have to pay something towards their health but it’s still far better than what the private sector gets. If they go to school and get their master’s or higher, their salary goes up. In the private sector, schooling is far less important… Layoffs rarely happen in the public sector due to market fluctuation.

    So perhaps teachers should work in the private sector for a while and learn, the grass isn’t always greener…

  33. Kurt says:

    I love that you just pulled the “grass is greener” argument in reverse, and in doing so, basically made my point for me.

  34. Duncan says:

    Speaking as someone from a “wealthy” district: We have zero funds to give raises to our current educators, let alone “poach” the “best and brightest” from other districts.

    The state-wide per pupil revenue cap, which increased $0 this cycle, sees to that.

    Even after cutting .9% from the expense side, since our WI revenue sharing dropped substantially, our property tax levy increased 3.9% this year. Thanks, Gov. Walker. Great job.

  35. Justin says:

    AG: No I don’t want “sympathy” for Wisconsin’s public school teachers. I think that the current teacher shortage is just desserts for a state where the majority of residents, including you & JTR, have treated teachers and other public employees as outcasts due to your HATRED for them. I regularly work with young teachers advising them to leave Wisconsin as soon as possible. Turns out that many veteran teachers who have endured the non-stop HATRED and attacks from your ilk have also been working to help the next generation of teachers realize just how screwed their careers, and their families will be from the effects of Act 10. I am one of many working to encourage those great young people who have accepted their “calling” to be a teacher, to not subject themselves, their careers, and their families to a lifetime of being a 3rd class citizen, literally outcasts in many communities across Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin has become known around the country as the state where all teachers are HATED. Not many young people want to live and work in a state where teaching is literally a dead end job and teachers are castigated by 90% of the residents in any community. Just as in the police and fire departments, many teachers are 3rd and 4th generation teachers. After Act 10, I cannot think of one colleague who has not told their college aged children that they will not pay for their college education IF they major in teaching. Parents want what is best for their kids; no parent who has endured the anti-teacher HATRED in Wisconsin wants to offer up their children to the cruelty of those who hate teachers in Wisconsin.

    Though Minnesota is a convenient destination, young teachers have a host of far better places to live and teach than in Walker’s Wisconsin. I enjoy helping these future great teachers leave Wisconsin as soon as possible.

  36. Dave says:

    You are delusional if you think private industry pays 55,000 for starting teachers. Please identify those schools. I have many educators in my family looking for a teaching positions. I do understand there was a great number of retirees from MPS. That was because they would lose their
    DOUBLE pension if they did not leave in 2013. Poor teachers. BTW very few private industries have the LUCRATIVE pensions as the UNION teachers do or the OUTSTANDING health benefits that for many, many, many years they payed NOTHING. Many people in private industry don’t even have a pension.. Most people are responsible for saving for their retirement. What interesting concept. LOL

    Please get the facts straight and put on your big boy pants and admit the UNION teachers(really all GOVERNMENT UNION WORKERS) have had a good gig for MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY years. Clerks are payed 20-25 an hour in gov union jobs and 12-15 in private. Receptionists are payed 18-23 per hour in gov union and 10-14 in private industry. NOT all unions are bad just GOVERNMENT UNIONS. Look at our buddy Tom Amendt. He negotiated the biggest pension scandal in the history of WI. I am staying paying for his unethical behavior.

    I ask myself many many times why government employees have better incomes, pensions, vacations, sick time then private industry.
    1 – Everybody negotiating is on the same side
    2 – Taxpayers do not speak up. Most taxpayers are unaware of the inequities.

  37. Justin says:

    Hey Dave-Why don’t YOU put on your big boy pants and stop HATING teachers and public employees out of sheer jealousy. You are likely one of the THOUSANDS of those Stand With Walker guys who sees a parking tag on a car at Pick N Save identifying a teacher at a local school and then goes on a verbal rant calling the teacher every name in the book when she comes back to her car.

    It is YOU who should get his facts straight, the pay comparisons you cite as so FALSE, they are laughable.DOUBLE pensions-yeah right. Total BS from a TEACHER HATER!!!!!

    Turn off FAUX news and open your eyes.

    Prior to Act 10, Wisconsin teacher pay was in the lower half of teacher pay in America. At the current rate of decline, not even counting the massive increases in co-pays for insurance and WRS pension, Wisconsin average teacher pay will be in the bottom 10 states in America.

    I really enjoy presenting the future of teaching in Wisconsin to the next generation of teachers because it is so gratifying to see them taking concrete actions to escape living with the likes of the many teacher HATERS in Wisconsin and begin their careers in states where teachers are still respected and compensated as professionals.

    Teaching in Walker’s Wisconsin is a DEAD END job.

  38. Cheryle says:

    Second generation teacher here! Teachers go into education to make a difference. Period. End of story. There’s no jack pot in any phase of the career. Even this “double jackpot” nonsense isn’t enough to be living the high life.

    Teachers are leaving the profession because of the constant berating and punishment we get about every aspect of a job non – teachers know nothing about. NOT. ONE. THING. It seems that just because people were students at one point in their lives, it makes them experts on a job they’ve never done.

    The salary and benefits rants I hear just confirm how little people use the public education THEY received for free…and most likely in a school close enough to walk to. The labor movement fought HARD for the benefits we ALL enjoy today. Just because teachers are one of the last professions to sell out the livelihoods earned by the labor movement, doesn’t make us greedy or lazy; it makes us smart. It’s not our problem that other professions gave up their unions; however, the bitterness of those who did want to project their mistakes on us. Bargain for your own fair wages and benefits! Don’t take ours away! That’s ludicrous!

    The hours/number of days we work is another example of armchair teacher haters’ ignorance. When school is in session, I work a minimum of 70 hours a week. Over any break is the closest I come to a straight 40. Summer “vacations” are spent preparing for the next year, attending professional development, and sitting in school to keep up with the number of credits required to renew our licences. Your child would not be educated if we didn’t work a massive amount of unpaid overtime. In fact, just for the “fun” of it, I calculated how much I earn per hour, based on a conservative estimate of how many hours I work: $5.83. That’s right, five dollars and eighty – three cents.

    I am another educator who wanted to be a teacher since second grade. I could skip to school every day because I love being with my students in the classroom every day. I also told my college age son NOT to go into education when he suggested becoming a teacher himself. All the hoops we have to jump through to “prove” our capability , as if ours is the only degree that isn’t enough, take away from what we really love to do: teach. Every last drop of fun has been bled from my profession, by people who know ZERO about the crap that falls out of their mouths and into legislation.

  39. Dee Shonkwiler says:

    Cheryle: Couldn’t have said it better . . . those who criticize need to volunteer to stand in front of that classroom with 166 different faces and personalities and “teach” them your preferred subject. As far as teaching in MN, don’t hold on to that dream for two reasons; one, MN doesn’t want WI teachers and #2 they have seen WI ways and ARE slowly but surely going that direction! The union is very strong in MN which in turn is hurtful to WI teachers. They have a shortage of teachers as well,but will NOT hire WI grads. They have increased class sizes to unbelievable amounts and expect more testing of their teachers which creates even more turn-a-round. I have an ed degree from Stout but decided NOT to student teach due to all the information I have collected from both states. This is the dumbing down of America and the commentator “Dave” thinks that a starting salary is $55,000 is NUTS! And I would like to add to people like “Dave” I would ask if he is tested for his job and if he need to continue CE classes every two years to keep his job? Walker and the Koch brothers have succeeded in the dumbing down of the general public because if Americans were educated, Americans would see what knuckleheads they are! But what I will say is the older teacher did toss they younger ones under the bus by being complacent while all this is going on over the past 10 years; Walker put the nail in the coffin but Thompson started the process. The older teachers said oh, well too bad for you, and took their retirement and left the younger teachers with no mentors or hope.

  40. gregory birtness says:

    I’m coming from left field with this. Teaching should not be based on college educated personal but from industry and knowledge. Your best bet for teachers will be from retired people.They wouldn’t need high pay. You could pay half of what you have been paying. They no longer have large expenditures. they are passed raising kids of their own. No longer paying large house payments. In fact, most would be downsizing. They would gain a sense of purpose and would be more engaged with the students.The student would profit the most. Plus it would improve relationships between generations. Oh yeah, having teachers that are not stressed by everyday life would make the classroom more in tune to the needs of the kids. The needs of the kids and not the needs of teachers would be a game changer for the future!

  41. Dave says:

    I don’t know about you, Gregory, but one thing I like to find in my child’s teachers is the ability and experience to effectively teach.

  42. Andrea says:

    Every parent who votes who supported the elected officials who have focused on taking jabs and cuts to school districts deserves what’s happening. Now they may see the impact of the cuts they favored when their kids and academic opportunities are on the line.
    Where, in any psychology, management or development books/expertise did anyone get the idea that reducing funding, reducing community support and ignoring the experts in the field (the actual teachers) from weighing in, were smart strategies? What business strategies shows that treating employees poorly and not paying competitively= success?
    This all stems from spite and opinion and this is what you get.

  43. Thomas says:


    I took your advice and re-read your initial comment. My second reading confirmed my initial sense of the total lack of sense in those remarks. The multitude of dismissals of your post are much better informed than you are. Did you attend school in WI or were you home schooled by talk radio, by Fox News on TV, or by a funny uncle somewhere? Please take a break from reiterating what you hear from partisan political entertainers, and give some thought to subjects at hand – especially when these subjects pertain to education.

    Sensitive potential teachers are not entering the teaching profession in WI in part because they legitimately fear ridicule by fools and the celebration of ignorance that passes as discussion sometimes these days in these parts.

  44. Matt Kle says:

    I think the teacher shortage will resolve itself over time. There are just too many people needing jobs who cannot afford to pass up those opportunities no matter how unpleasant or low-paying or benefit-free some positions may be. I think the present and future trend is more people working for less money and there is no shortage of people willing to do that. Also, headlines which focus on job shortages in any particular field generally seem to generate strong interests in those fields by job-hungry students and others in unstable job situations. So give it time and we will have a full complement of teachers. Historical memories tend to be short so upcoming generations may be more forgiving than the people who are leaving the educational systems now.

  45. David Ciepluch says:

    When society, media, foolish idiot politicians berate teachers on a continuous basis, it is unlikely smart and well intentioned people would choose to endure the beatings they receive or last in the profession. Work is more than just a paycheck. Any job should come with dignity, respect, appreciation, and a sense of positive accomplishment by the participant. These go beyond paycheck.

    Media, Republicans, and hate radio have created a toxic stew, stench, and downward spiral in Wisconsin that will be difficult to pull out from. WI leads the nation in working people leaving the state, and loss of median family incomes of over $10,000, and last in business startups. My wife and I are both retired, loved Wisconsin, but now want to move out of such a negative state. Only being held back to care for an elderly parent.

  46. another Steve says:

    Interesting to see a new rash of comments 6 months after the initial article. More data has been piling in confirming a deepening teacher shortage in all levels in all districts in every school sub-species. As a recently retired, rehired, double dipping, now just a substitute 30 year experienced teacher with a MS in chemistry, I can tell you that nobody who is retired will put up with the level of bs needed to do the job on any full or near full basis. Further, the current policies don’t even allow part-time rehired teachers to keep the WRS check (I get 28 k a year for all you envious know nothings), while teaching, so they take other kinds of part-time work instead. This policy was rammed through after Act 10, in response to the first round of retirements and howls of “double dipping ” by Sykes and the other loudmouth knownothings.
    On the other end of the pipeline, not only are there continuous supply shortages, the burnout/ takethisjoband shove it rate is extremely high regardless of the district, regardless of the type of school (voucher, charter, private, public). Young people really won’t invest themselves in a non-career non sustainable job with no financial incentives. PERIOD.

    Act 10 was “sold” as a way to improve education by relieving the financial and administrative burdens of Teacher Unions, and now we are arguing over how much worse has it really gotten. Nobody seems to be claiming things are a lot better in education…
    I am fortunate in that I can live on little and still have a rewarding role subbing 1 or 2 days a week. Some older teachers are stuck and will perform like any dissatisfied workers. Younger teachers with their excellent interpersonal and communication and multitasking skills will re-route to private sector jobs as fast as they become available…we should have another 250 thousand soon, right Scott?

  47. AG says:

    Another Steve, when was ACT 10 sold as a way to improve education? It was a way to help save the state from the massive budget hole after many years of the unions blocking any meaningful budget reforms in local schools. I took pay cuts during the recession too… but I eventually got over it. Unions pretty much only have themselves to blame for the stranglehold they had over local school boards with their heels in the sand positions for so long.

    I understand wanting to do what’s best for your senior members… but by doing things like dictating the use of union owned insurance and refusing any paycuts during the recession (until the writing of ACT10 was on the wall), it’s the inability to accept the bigger picture that did them in.

  48. Kurt says:

    While there is some truth in what you say about unions holding their ground too long in certain aspects of the recession, your overall point is severely undercut by the pursuance of so called “right to work” legislation. Also, it’s nice that you’ve been able to bounce back from the recession. Teachers and other Act 10 employees have not.

  49. James Lowder says:

    Before Act 10, the unions saw limited or no increases during good times and calls for additional cuts during bad times, based on an earlier funding formula gifted to the state by the Republicans in Madison. The “meaningful budget reform:” being blocked was cutting teacher pay and benefits further to compensate for Walker’s giveaway tax breaks. Beyond that, Act 10 was about busting a political opponent by the state GOP, a foe who saw them as putting politics before education at every turn–an attitude ACT 10 embodied.

    There’s a cliff fast approaching. Even GOP stalwart districts such as New Berlin mumbling about coming funding shortfalls and staff and possible program cuts. That’s because Act 10 was a temporary fix; rook-the-employee plans always are. But look for the GOP to go back to the same well soon, restarting discussions at top speed about untrained teachers entering the classroom as part-time space fillers, people hired with no benefits and even worse pay, on the college adjunct model. The shortage of qualified teachers the GOP has created will only serve to bolster this plan, since districts are going to have trouble getting fully trained staff. Once again, education will suffer and the K-12 system will lurch one step closer to collapse. Exactly as planned.

  50. Vincent Hanna says:

    Good points James. It’s not like teachers were getting rich before Act 10. 10 years ago the starting salary in MPS was less than $30,000 a year. I could barely eat and pay my bills. Every teacher I knew had a second job, myself included. This added to already significant stress as I was working 60 hours a week teaching and worked the vast majority of the summer (contrary to popular belief that summer is a three-month vacation for teachers).

  51. David Ciepluch says:

    For decades teachers bypassed raises for improved pension and health care benefits, and in Milwaukee is was also a residency requirement for promised health care. Health care was relatively cheap in the early 1980s when the agreements and path were set and to keep wages low. As health care cost dramatically increased in the 90s, it is when everyone else became jealous of teachers and other public workers that had forgone wages for benefits.

    Unions stick up for their workers. That is their role and job. It is not about greed for them since their real wages have always been kept low with the promise of the benefits. Government lost the bet when health care costs exploded. And the divide and conquer strategy of Walker and his stooges worked as they stoked jealousy of others.

    So Walker and GOP stole back the 15% in wages and benefits, and also steals from their future pension payments as well. Walker paid for his huge tax breaks for the wealthy donor class and his WEDC pay to pay scam on the backs of wage theft from workers, and cuts in K-12 and University education.

    Wisconsin is in a downward spiral that will be difficult to impossible to dig out of over time.

  52. Vincent Hanna says:

    “Unions stick up for their workers. That is their role and job.”

    Why are police officer and firefighter unions never criticized the way teacher’s unions are? They go to bat for people who are accused (or even convicted) of horrible crimes and yet they are never subject to withering criticism.

  53. dkmke says:

    Once they started getting special treatment.

  54. David Ciepluch says:

    Teacher bashing is also a form of “war on women” and keep them down. The teaching profession in K-12 had been predominately dominated by more women than men. Since the 80s, many men with high school education have been the biggest losers in the job market as production jobs they used to hold have been lost by the millions across the USA.

    Wisconsin has been especially hard hit by these production job losses. In particular since 07-08 hundreds of plants have closed including large ones like Chrysler and GM, and at least 5 paper mills and surrounding support industries. The new building construction industry was also hard hit in the downturn and making a slow comeback. There is jealously from this demographic of men, that is easily played upon in the divide and conquer strategy and turn them against their own best interests long term. All Walker and media did was point to public workers and teachers in particular as the scapegoat, and say look what they have and you do not.

    Police and Fire made their deal with the devil to maintain their own selfish interests and preservation at the expense of everyone else. Milwaukee Police still make up more than 56% of the city’s budget. Many of us do recognize the difficult jobs they have, and few know what it is like to walk in their jobs on a daily basis. But all people have difficult jobs and their toil, family expenses and rights to fairness, respect, dignity, appreciation, and in quality of decent working conditions should be no less important than any others.

  55. Kevin Koehler says:

    AG. “you reap what you sew”. You could say you get what you pay for.
    Rather than wanting your children to have the best teachers, you and walker want to just hire people off the streets and pay them the least amount possible. What kind of teacher will that be? Will it be one with experience, and love for the job or will it be some pervert that wants to get near kids for the wrong reasons that didn’t need a background check or college education.

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