New Study Shows Teacher Shortage
The problem exists statewide, but is the worst in metro Milwaukee.
Back in August, Urban Milwaukee did a story documenting the growing teacher shortage in Wisconsin, which found many school districts were having trouble attracting teacher applicants and many universities were seeing a decline in education majors, led by UW-Milwaukee, with a 23 percent decline.
A new study by the Public Policy Forum shows the problem is both worse — and not as bad — as earlier reports have shown. Wisconsin is definitely seeing a decline in education students in colleges: that has declined by 28 percent from 2008-2009 to 2013-2014, but the national decline has been even higher: 35 percent during that period. State-wide, UW-Oshkosh saw the steepest decline — 70 percent — in its teacher preparation program enrollees.
Wisconsin also saw a 7 percent decline of education majors completing their teacher training during that period, compared to a 22 percent decline nationally. “It is clear that the decline in enrollment in teacher preparation programs that our state has experienced in recent years is part of a larger regional and national trend impacting the teaching profession,” the study notes.
Yet this problem has been compounded by the impact of Act 10, which greatly increased the number of teachers leaving the profession. “The data show a clear spike in teachers leaving after the 2010-11 school year. This corresponds to the time when Wisconsin Act 10 was proposed and adopted,” the study notes. State-wide, 6,507 teachers retired in the year after Act 10 was passed, a 56 percent increase over the prior year, when just 4,173 left the profession. Many of those leaving in both years were retiring.
The study documented a huge problem in metro Milwaukee: “Teachers age 55 and above – who are eligible for retirement – represent 46.7% of teachers who leave. However, this means 53.3% of the teachers who leave are doing so prior to retirement. Young teachers in their 20s and 30s comprise 34% of those who leave the profession. This suggests that public school districts in the state have difficulty retaining young teachers.”
Why are so many teachers leaving the profession? “Survey respondents listed money as the most frequent reason. From low starting salaries, to capped raises, to a lack of opportunity for income growth, teachers indicate they seek higher earnings beyond the classroom.”
This finding reinforces what officials with the Milwaukee teachers union had long argued, that the prospect of future “step” raises and pension plans helped the school district to retain younger teachers.
The increase in teachers leaving the profession has meant a decline in experienced teachers state-wide, the study found. “Teachers with no prior experience comprised 44.5% of entering teachers in 2010-11, but grew to 62.3% in 2013-14. Moreover, those with more than 10 years of experience declined from 21.7% of entering teachers to 13.7% over the same period. “
The problem could worsen, it the years to come, the study suggested, particularly in metro Milwaukee, where about 27 percent of the workforce “has reached the minimum retirement age of 55 or will do so in the next few years.”
Meanwhile, younger teachers who leave the profession to have children or for other reasons are now less likely to come back: “returning teachers with more than five years of experience comprised 37.4% of entering teachers in 2009-10; by 2013-14, however, they accounted for 24.5%. This may be an indication that fewer people want to return to the profession after they have initially left the teacher workforce.”
This “places increased importance on the supply from teacher preparation programs,” the study noted, but “fewer people in recent years are enrolling in those programs.”
Not only are there fewer education majors in Wisconsin, there are fewer teacher applicants coming here from other states: “In recent years, about 1,800 initial teaching licenses were granted each year to people who completed a prep program in another state. In the most recent year, however, that number fell to 934, a decrease of 49%,” the study found.
Nationally, the teaching profession has an average starting salary of $30,377, while the average starting salary for all college graduates was $45,473. The loss of compensation and prestige for teachers in Wisconsin, as a result of Act 10, may have only compounded that problem.
The Policy Policy Forum study proposes a list of policy options to ease the teacher shortage “and bolster the profession,” including:
-Promise programs that assist with college costs and incentivize people to become educators;
-Expansion of existing state and federal teacher loan forgiveness programs;
-A debt assistance program that helps educators to pay off student loans while teaching;
-Changes to teacher salaries, including raises and performance-based compensation;
-Part-time teacher employment to accommodate family obligations while boosting retention.