Why I’m Leaving Wisconsin

UW-Madison English Department Chair among six department professors leaving for better pay.

By - May 16th, 2016 12:20 pm
Caroline Levine. Photo from the University of Wisconsin.

Caroline Levine. Photo from the University of Wisconsin.

Gov. Scott Walker has blasted University of Wisconsin faculty for not being interested in “delivering value” to Wisconsin. There are lots of ways to measure value, of course, but let’s focus on the kind Walker himself extols most: market value.

Ironically, it is Walker himself and the rest of the GOP who are preventing the University of Wisconsin from offering a competitive product in a global marketplace.

Let’s start with price. Businesses charge market rates for their products and services. Top-tier private colleges and universities right now are charging $44,000 or more in tuition each year, more than four times the rate of in-state tuition for an education at the UW-Madison,ranked in the top 50 universities around the world.

Why are prices so low? Because politicians have put a cap on tuition.

It’s like telling Toyota that they must charge a particular price for their cars, while letting Honda and General Motors and Hyundai sell the same — or inferior — vehicles to the same customers at four times the cost.

Low prices might be a great way to compete, but politicians have also artificially limited the UW’s pool of consumers. There’s huge demand for Wisconsin higher education around the world. But politicians insist that the university must limit the number of students admitted from out of state to no more than 27.5 percent of the university’s total enrollment. They’ve also capped tuition for out-of-state students to a price much lower than that of our peers. The University of Michigan charges $43,118 to those from outside of Michigan. The University of Wisconsin charges $29,665 for out-of-state students.

This is something like telling Toyota that they must not only charge between a quarter and a half of the market price for an excellent product, but also that they have to send away many thousands of eager customers who are willing to pay much more.

What a bargain! But Wisconsin’s leaders are not praising faculty for managing to offer a world-class product at a fraction of the market price. They are scolding us for failing to deliver value.

To be sure, the university receives state funding, and so it makes sense that we should offer a subsidy to Wisconsin residents. I strongly support increases in public funding for education myself, but in order to understand the value of a Wisconsin education, we need to measure the amount of the subsidy against the actual cost of educating students.

So let’s now set the approximate cost of educating students against the value of the state subsidies. The UW-Madison is receiving 15 percent of its total budget from state monies. Tuition amounts to only another 18 percent of the total. Students also cover part of the total budget through payments for housing and food, but that means that someone other than the state and students is shouldering at least 50 percent of the university’s budget.

What private business would shoulder 50 percent of its costs, passing on only 50 percent to consumers? That is exactly what the UW-Madison does, making up the difference between its artificially low tuition, set by politicians, and the real cost of student education. Faculty and staff at the university work every day to pay that difference — by winning grants, pursuing gifts, and developing entrepreneurial ventures.

Walker’s chiding the faculty is like telling Toyota that they are not delivering value unless they are charging much less for their cars than it takes to make the cars in the first place. I may be only an English professor, but even I can tell you math like that isn’t going to work out too well for the company.

Of course, Walker’s contention is that the university’s costs are just too high — bloated with too many overpaid workers. So let’s talk about salaries. I don’t like the big disparities between professional wages and those of other workers myself, but I can assure you that salaries for faculty are a response to a globally competitive marketplace.

Faculty are not unionized. Five colleagues in my own department have been wooed away to other universities in the past year with salary offers between 50 percent and 100 percent more than what they were earning at the University of Wisconsin.

Imagine blasting workers at Toyota because they were asking to earn salaries equal to the pay of peers with similar skills at Honda or Chevy.

I myself am now leaving the University of Wisconsin after 14 years. At my new university in another state, I will have stronger tenure protections than I now have here. I will earn about 50 percent more than my current salary for the same job. And I will be free from the strange crazy-making double-speak that on one hand demands that higher education deliver value like a business, and on the other hand, methodically prevents it from doing so.

Caroline Levine will be resigning from her job as professor and chair of the English department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this summer.

This column was originally published by Madison’s Cap Times.

Categories: Education, Op-Ed, Politics

79 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Why I’m Leaving Wisconsin”

  1. WashCoRepub says:

    I have no doubt students would appreciate the opportunity to sink further into debt so Ms. Levine’s salary could be closer to 200K.

  2. Joe says:

    Caps on public university tuition aren’t a new thing. Considering the fact that tutition increases have outpaced inflation for decades, i think caps are a good thing, regardless of whether that makes Walker into some kind of anti-free market hypocrite.

    Ms. Levine made $121,563 last year. If she can make 50% more than that somewhere else, i encourage her to do so. Sounds like the market is working.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    So the state’s flagship university loses all of its best educators to other states and that’s no big deal? Nothing to see here?

  4. Tim says:

    Yeah, I bet the state of WI cutting support for the UW system while giving Walker’s cronies tax breaks… even when his cronies don’t actually create jobs…. I’m guessing that’s why students are sinking further into debt.

  5. AG says:

    So UW saw a reduction of 10.6% of 15% of their budget… so roughly 1.5%. I can understand being upset and not liking budget cuts. I can understand not being happy that tenure was changed, even though it’s still in line with most other university systems (and lets just be glad Walker didn’t get the type of tenure system he wanted). I can even understand not liking the policy that you have to get an outside offer to get any type of larger pay increase (Professor Levine probably got one of those matching offers to stay).

    However, to claim you’re leaving because we need to educate more students from out of state and because there is a tuition freeze? That is complete and utter BS. Student debt and middle class families struggling to pay for higher education is a HUGE problem. Even though many of these professors interact with students on a daily basis they could not be further away from understanding their financial hardships and burdens.

    I understand we want to attract the best and brightest students to our flagship university but UW-Madison is OUR flagship university and in state students should have priority over those from outside the state in most cases. If these are her views then I wish her luck in her new endeavors and hope her replacement cares more about the students he or she teaches.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    “Even though many of these professors interact with students on a daily basis they could not be further away from understanding their financial hardships and burdens.”

    It is because they interact with students on a daily basis that the vast majority of them understand their financial hardships and burdens. I’d wager they understand much better than you or most people for that matter. It’s also pretty foolish to suggest that this instructor doesn’t care enough about their students. You have no idea how much they do or do not care about their students.

  7. AG says:

    Vincent, if that was the case then she wouldn’t be advocating to for 40k a year tuition just because Madison is world class.

    You’re also once agian making assumption about my own point of view. You know what assuming does… right?

  8. Marie says:

    There are many reasons to be concerned about UW, including legislative plans to weaken tenure and other attacks on the system. However, the argument that UW should charge more than $30,000 for out-of-state students (and bump up in-state tuition) has serious flaws–unless one goal is to decrease the number of out-of-state students. Some already say it’s becoming very difficult for many qualified Wisconsin students to get accepted into UW-Madison due to the number of out-of-state students admitted.

    I can understand professors leaving to take jobs with higher pay. That is a market reality. But so is the fact that more and more students and families are being priced out of the higher-education market.

    It’s also a market reality that higher ed’s “market” pays its tenure-track professors quite well while also depending on many much-lower-paid lecturers and adjuncts. That’s not unique to Wisconsin but it’s one of higher eds dirty little secrets. Issues around the higher-ed “market” are indeed complex.

  9. Jeremy says:

    Good for Prof. Levine. A 50% pay increase is great! If there was more movement within the field of higher education we’d all be better off. A reduction in supply for elementary, secondary and now college educators is good news for those looking to enter the profession. Commenter Justin will soon be laughing all the way to the bank!

  10. Mike says:


    So you’re ok paying $44,000 or more a year to go a get an English degree. It’s great she got a raise, but notice she didn’t say “I’m leaving academia for the private sector because I can’t get paid enough teaching anymore”. She simply found a school willing to pay her more.

    At some point the cost of higher education has to get out of control. The costs have far outpaced inflation in a time where people’s wages have stayed somewhat flat when adjusted to inflation.

  11. Jason says:

    Professor Levine is sad she is leaving her safe space for a more luxurious safe space ..Boo hoo! Just another reason to give more tax payer money to blue collar trades schools.

  12. CouldBeYou says:

    Leaving UW-Milwaukee for a much better opportunity in another state. Our unit can’t replace key positions, can’t serve students as well as before, can’t support research well enough to maintain the R1 status it took us so long to acquire, and is clearly facing brain drain. 4 of my unit’s faculty are leaving and 2 faculty and 1 senior admin are looking. Way to go, Scott Walker & friends! WI’s rep has already started to suffer. And it will only get worse.

  13. ithacaan says:

    “…crazy-making double-speak that on one hand demands that higher education deliver value like a business, and on the other hand, methodically prevents it from doing so.” Typical republican MO. Just look at the requirements they have put on the post office. Probably angling to ruin the UW system so that they can replace it with for-profit colleges that give meaningless degrees. But6 since they are not exactly representative of the best and the brightest, they probably don’t know the difference.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    So when top-tier organizations begin losing all of their best and brightest to competitors, they do nothing? Throw their hands up and say “well too bad that’s the free market though?” Or they look for a solution that just makes it even more likely that they’ll continue to lose their top talent? I realize some have no lost love for higher education and the UW system, but you don’t see any downside whatsoever to UW and the UW system losing their best instructors and researchers while the reputation of UW and the UW system plummet?

  15. Joe says:

    Vincent, what would you have them do? Madison already costs $25k/year for an in-state kid. There are limits on what they can pay people if they want to retain some modicum of affordability, which is traditionally what public universities do.

    Frankly if Ms. Levine is this ignorant of that reality i find it very hard to believe that she’s the best we had.

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    I understand college is expensive. I’m sure Dr. Levine is aware of it as well. The cost of higher education is a valid concern. But that sure seems like a defeatist attitude Joe. You’re saying literally nothing can or should be done? Just watch all those instructors and researchers leave and say “that’s too bad but that’s the cost of a free market?” What are other states doing? Minnesota seems to be doing OK. If people are so anti-UW and anti-higher ed that they just shrug about this and claim nothing can be done, that is sad. But hey you’re really sticking it to the elites. Good job.

  17. Joe says:

    You didnt bother to answer my question. What would you have them do?

    Do you want UW to become another $50k/year school so Ms. Levine can make $200k? Is there something else wrong with the UW budget that could be fixed to keep such an (apparently) necessary talent?

    Are you sure no teachers have left Minnesota for higher pay? I doubt you follow them as closely as UW.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    So that’s the only option Joe? Double the cost of attending UW so that all instructors can make $200,000? I never said that nor am I suggesting that. Not sure why that’s your conclusion.

    I don’t follow them as closely as I don’t live there. Hence the question. I do know they are actively recruiting our educators, and not just at the college level.

  19. Joe says:

    I didnt say it’s the only option. That’s why i asked “is there something else wrong with the UW budget that could be fixed” so we can pay these teachers what they apparently need. Considering your insistence that we not let these people walk, I was under the impression you had some ideas. Pardon me if you dont.

    You seem to be reading a lot more into my posts than what ive actually said. This isnt about “sticking it to” anyone and i havent limited discussion to one option. Work on your comprehension if youre going to bother responding to me.

  20. Vincent Hanna says:

    Take it easy Joe. After all, you’re the one who put words in my mouth about raising the cost of attending UW and paying professors more, so you might want to be careful about telling others to read more carefully.

    I have small children. I worry very much about the cost of higher education. I also worry about the quality of UW and the UW system, and the consequences of what’s being done to them, including but not limited to instructors and researchers leaving for institutions in other states. One can be deeply concerned about both.

    Tommy Thompson seems to get it. http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/education/university/on-campus-tommy-thompson-lauds-great-professors-while-scott-walker/article_f241c383-beb1-5c10-8e30-f0bf526d30ed.html


  21. Vincent Hanna says:

    Where’s my other post? Does every post with two or three links in it get held for review? Cripes that’s annoying.

  22. Marie says:

    What’s scary about the UW situation is that it’s part of a larger agenda that attempted to remove the “Wisconsin Idea” from the state’s educational mission, to restrict scientific research, including among DNR and climate scientists, and other regressive plans that are collectively putting Wisconsin in danger of being a bottom-tier state. In some cases high-demand workers (including in education) will leave Wisconsin for better money, but some, including students and millennials, will move to states with better quality of life and policies that are not trying to return to the Dark Ages.

    Decimating education at all levels benefits no one, but for now it helps some extremist politicians and “think tanks” to raise money. It’s a race to the bottom cloaked in mumbo-jumbo about trickle-down whatever.

  23. Dave says:

    I think it says a lot about the population of a state when many of them blame the high cost of education on teachers while overlooking the plethora of other factors. I can’t wait to follow Ms. Levine out of this shithole.

  24. Joe says:

    Teachers are but one of many factors. And with tuition exploding at a rate 4 times that of inflation, ALL of the factors, including salaries, need to be examined.

    I dont consider it to be “blaming the teachers” to acknowledge the upside of tuition caps on response to an op-ed written by a teacher complainong about her salary.

    $123k sounded a bit low for someone of her qualifications, but is it 50% too low? I guarantee that wherever she’s headed is charging unsustainable rates for a bachelor’s degree. It’s a nice racket for her but i fear for the future.

  25. AG says:

    Dave, I don’t blame professors for the high cost of tuition. I know there is a lot of bureaucracy and redundancies in the system that do that. However, this particular professor is explicitly advocating for raising tuition to a level that is out of reach for many students from middle class families. That is NOT a solution.

    I would love to know where she is going so we could compare her pay, the tenure system, and what the tuition rates are.

  26. UWguy says:

    If Republicans weren’t so selective about their rhetoric, they’d let their beloved free market set UW tuition. But they’re socialists when it suits them. The professor is right about that part.

    But if these professors are leaving merely for salary dollars and to exercise a grudge against the GOP, good luck to them. Salaries are somewhat deflated on paper at UW, in part because the benefits are good, the city is great and the university is one of the finest in the world, a place at which 90-odd-percent of academics elsewhere would give a limb to be. That won’t change from a few years of control by pandering GOP hardliners. As much as they’re trying.

  27. Vincent Hanna says:

    We might not be able to do a comparison for this particular professor, but the infamous Sara Goldrick-Rab (and I am aware that many detest her) is leaving for Temple. She says the tenure system there is much stronger. Not sure how her pay compares or if she’s mentioned that. Temple costs about $5,000 a year more than UW-Madison.

  28. Vincent Hanna says:

    UWguy you fail to mention tenure policies as one of the main reasons for leaving.

  29. Joe says:

    Does anyone actually think tuition at public universities shouldn’t be capped? I get that it makes Walker a hypocrite, but does anyone really dispute that tuition caps at UW schools is a good idea?

    With that in mind, since they aren’t going to charge $50-60k/year, costs obviously need to be controlled. I haven’t read through the UW budget to see where money is being wasted that we could have given to Caroline Levine, but it’s telling that nobody else has come up with anything yet.

  30. John says:

    Universities only have a few areas with which to raise revenue, and our State has continued to slash higher education funding at the State level for over a decade. Capping tuition is just another way to hit it. Coincide the funding cuts with massive tax cuts to the wealthy.

    How else should people interpret this? Walker and Co. are playing plebes for the sake of giving massive giveaways to the wealthiest folks in the state. The UW system and Wisconsin’s strong educational foundation has forever been one of the few things Wisconsin offered that warmer states weren’t able to offer, but that will no longer be the case. If we wanted to further accelerate brain drain from Wisconsin, we are headed there.

    I would love for any Republican in this state to actually defend how these policy decisions will make things better for everyone? I would happily have my properties taxes go up by a few hundred bucks to help make up the difference if it ensured that the best and brightest were able to educations here and more wanted to stay.

  31. Knb says:

    You’re free to leave a job where you feel unappreciated and undervalued. Kudos to you if you can get some other domain to pay you for that schlock you spew.
    That’s the beauty of the free market, right? The market determines your value. You teach what, 3 classes? Big ass deal, isn’t it? Have you nooo clue how hard millions of others work?
    So take your Ph.D and go work where they’ll pay ya.

  32. blackbird says:

    Don’t worry Wisconsin is already bottom feeders. Dead last in new job start ups, 3rd highest health care in the country, 3rd worst infrastructure in the country, fastest in the country in losing the middle class, 38th in jobs, cut 2 billion out K-12, 250 million out of university’s, millions cut in tech schools. Our best chance for Wisconsin to compete in this world was our educational system. GOP has killed that too. Minnesota last month was named the best place in the country to do business. Wisconsin is loving in the darkness.

  33. Virginia Small says:

    Adding to blackbird’s list: Wisconsin trails midwestern states in alternative energy. Minnesota, Iowa and others are far ahead.

    Walker killed any hope of high-speed rail for a generation. Minnesota continues to pursue a Chicago-Twin Cities high-speed link but it may have to bypass Wisconsin.

    The Twin Cities are tied as best cities for parks in the country. Wisconsin has completely defunded its state parks–despite their being crucial for tourism. Wisconsin’s (& Milwaukee County’s) quality of life is in serous jeopardy.

    Pols and many others are in major denial. Wisconsin needs a tough-love intervention. Will some influential business people face up to the grim realities and talk some sense into state-destructive politicians?

  34. Thomas says:

    Dear Professor Levine,

    Thank you for the thoughtful, well researched and well written good-bye letter. I wish you the best in your new position. Your letter effectively exposed the Orwellian double-speak and the P.T. Barnum math that the Walker administration and their “confederacy of dunces” in our state legislature have used to gain power for themselves at the price of diminished education and quality of life in our state – not to mention the damage they have done to our economy.

    Thanks again, and Godspeed

  35. UWguy says:

    Vincent: Point taken, but no tenured professor is ever getting terminated at UW, and everyone on campus knows it. It would be institutional suicide. There is plenty of non-tenured staff to walk the plank first and literally thousands of other ways to cut. Professors are turning the change in legal language into a tempest out of frustration with GOP leadership of the state.

  36. Vincent Hanna says:

    But if professors feel like it’s getting more likely that terminations could happen under the guise of departmental cuts or whatever other language is in the tenure system revisions, you can’t blame them for looking elsewhere.

  37. AG says:

    Vincent, do you think Prof. Levine is worried they will cut the English department?

  38. Vincent Hanna says:

    Did I say that AG? Is it really not clear that I’m speaking generally? But hey pat yourself on the back for a great zinger!

  39. AG says:

    Don’t blame me for calling out the red herring. I have neither seen nor heard of any professor, including prof. Levine, who left because they felt their department may be eliminated and they would lose their tenure because of it. It’s all BS.

  40. Vincent Hanna says:

    That’s not what I am blaming you for. I am saying there’s either a lack of reading comprehension or an intentional misrepresentation. The changes to the tenure system mean that tenured positions could be eliminated in the event of department cuts. To be exact: University officials can now lay off tenured faculty “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.” That’s pretty broad, and it’s reasonable for professors to be leery of it.

  41. Sean says:

    Imagine workers at Toyota earning their paychecks by producing a tangible work product, like peers with similar skills at Honda or Chevy.

    Oh, wait.

  42. AG says:

    I understand the argument, but I don’t believe they are actually that worried about it. I say that for two reasons. First, as I said, none of the teachers who went public to say they were leaving because of the new tenure policy actually thought they were at risk of losing their tenure for those reasons. Second, most tenure policies have that type of provision. Unless they leave the UW system for the few places that don’t, they’re only leaving on principle (and dislike of the current administration) and not because there is any real risk of losing their tenure.

  43. Vincent Hanna says:

    I’m sorry AG but you are wrong. I have firsthand knowledge of tenure worries. It is real. It’s easier for you to believe it’s just anti-Walker sentiment but that just isn’t reality. They may not think they’ll personally be fired next year or even ever, but they believe the tenure system changes could head down that road for their colleagues and make the UW system itself weaker. You can have great job security but still dislike what your organization is doing, and look elsewhere. That’s legit. It’s about more than just not being a fan of Scott Walker.

  44. Virginia Small says:

    Here’s some food for thought about higher ed and entrepreneurship. What are the potential rewards and pitfalls, as well as ethical issues? It relates more to tech and science than English departments, but what are the new roles of a university and of its students?


  45. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    It’s funny to hear Chuckles Sykes and other righties trying to play the resentment game by pointing out a Ph.D and department head makes $121K. Strangely, tgey never mention what kind of salaries “Professor” Rick Sleazy-berg pulls from the TAX-EXEMPT Bradley Foundation. Wonder why?

    And Chuckles and RW radio never bring up the salaries of unproductive CEOs who get millions out of the WEDC slush fund, and contribute next to nothing in jobs or innovation. Why not?

    Know who the real takers in this state are. And they aren’t academics in Wisconsin getting paid below market rates

  46. Mike says:

    The free market ceased to be involved in the Universities when the government decided to get into the student loan business. Much like the housing bust a few years back it has created a bubble in price that really isn’t grounded in any reality. Great for this professor that she’s able to go somewhere else and make more for now, but how much longer will it last.

    You will have a whole generation of people who are saddled with a great deal of debt and many have useless degrees (sorry English department). Are they going to push to send their kids to the University as hard as they may have been pushed? People will say one needs a college degree to succeed, but many of the great entrepreneurs in this country lack a degree and I think we will see a big shift in how college is valued.

    Certain degrees may be a good value at $25,000 a year at UW, but many degrees will only lead people to want government to step in and pay off their student loan.

  47. Vincent Hanna says:

    I’m sorry but just because a few entrepreneurs struck it rich without getting a degree does not in any way lessen the value of a college degree. That is absurd. It’s like saying people don’t need college because they could just win Powerball.

  48. Justin says:

    No teacher at any level in Walker’s Wisconsin is “laughing all the way to the bank” as some earlier comments stated. I have just finished my spring speaking tour of many college classrooms across Walker’s Wisconsin. Though my audiences have grown much smaller due to the significant decline in the number of students majoring in education, those graduating from college this year are very receptive to my message that they have ZERO future if they pursue their teaching career inside Walker’s Wisconsin.

    When I show them factual information of the significant money increase that they will earn over their lifetime when they leave Walker’s Wisconsin, coupled with not having to live in a state infected with Teacher Derangement Syndrome, many of these newly minted teachers have told me that taking a teaching job in Wisconsin is going to be their last resort, if something better doesn’t come along.

    That might be why there are nearly 3,000 full time K12 teacher vacancies posted on WECAN already this year. School districts are having trouble filling elementary school positions, hiring new science, math, technical education, and special education teachers is nearly impossible as other states are now actively recruiting both new and experienced teachers in these areas from Walker’s Wisconsin.

  49. AG says:

    Justin, I still can’t believe anyone would let you speak to any college class filled with education students to actively dissuade them from teaching in Wisconsin.

    We had a guest speaker in one of my graduate classes actually tell us in his presentation not to pursue our degree and we were furious. I would imagine many of these education students feel the same way about you trying to dissuade them from pursuing teaching in Wisconsin. You’re a moron and perpetuating the rhetoric you claim is so damaging and creating more damage through your actions. I hope you eventually look back and feel ashamed of yourself.

  50. Vincent Hanna says:

    Moron? That’s pretty harsh and uncivil AG. Sorry to see you stoop to that level.

    Justin I don’t think you’re a moron but I do wonder who pays for or organizes these presentations you deliver. You speak to education students in teacher prep programs in Wisconsin and tell them to teach outside the state? Do the teacher prep programs know this? I have a lot of problems with the administration and legislature and their stances on higher education and teaching, but the idea that someone is actually telling ed students here to job search elsewhere is a little odd. What’s your ultimate goal? Do you think what you’re doing will lead to positive change in Wisconsin?

  51. Joe says:

    Justin’s comments in the below article provide more information on his “speaking program.”


  52. AG says:

    Moron was definitely the wrong word. In my frustration that is what I chose. I can think of plenty of other harsher, yet more appropriate terms.

  53. Vincent Hanna says:

    Thanks Joe. So he goes around to schools in Wisconsin and encourages its teachers to retire and teach in Minnesota? Is Minnesota on board with this then?

  54. Dave says:

    Moron is the correct term for people who stay in this backwards shithole of a state when they have the opportunity to leave. Asshole is the term for people like you who make endless excuses for yourselves and the people you voted for who ruined this once great state. Drop dead.

  55. Joe says:

    What’s keeping you, Dave?

  56. Justin says:

    With all the name-calling directed at me, I thought I was back at the August 2011 meeting of the New Berlin school board where teachers were pelted with pacifiers by an angry “Stand With Walker” crowd before having to be escorted to their cars by police so that they wouldn’t be physically assaulted, just sworn at. (sometimes I show the video of that school board meeting)

    I probably should clarify a few things. When I speak to the students (or other audiences), I just tell the story of Walker’s Wisconsin and how the lives and careers of teachers in Walker’s Wisconsin have been changed forever. I am extremely fortunate to be a compelling speaker who is able to relate the economic impact of the elimination of collective bargaining & union contracts (Act 10) to the teaching careers of these new teachers. I cite real examples in comparing their futures teaching in Wisconsin with their futures teaching in Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, etc… Examples such as comparing salary growth in 5-10-15 years, citing the school district in Kenosha County that recruits teachers by dangling a carrot of a $75,000 maximum salary. Sounds good, but the new teachers don’t find out until after they sign the contract that it will take them 60 YEARS to reach that top salary. Go 25 miles south into Illinois and they will reach that salary in their 10th year.

    All I am doing is telling the story of what teaching in Walker’s Wisconsin has become 5 years after Act 10 became law. I talk about recent examples where teachers with 20, 30, even 40 years of experience have been fired after just ONE parent complaint. In nearly every other state in America, a teacher could appeal that firing to an impartial arbitrator or judge. But not in Walker’s Wisconsin. Many times on the campaign trail, Governor Walker bragged that he made it easy to fire teachers. The recent public stories of teachers being fired after one parent complaint are the tip of an iceberg made up of hundreds of teachers across Wisconsin. I think that these new teachers should understand that at any time during their career in Walker’s Wisconsin they could be fired in the same manner.

    Typical Republican thinking that I am being paid to spread the word about the teaching and living conditions in Walker’s Wisconsin. I receive no speaking fees or expenses no matter where I travel. Offered but not accepted.

    I truly admire these fresh, vibrant college students who have spent 4-6 years training to become teachers. Being a teacher is an outstanding career. Great teachers not only impact individual lives, but great teachers (and great public schools) are a key component of the economic engine that drives a state forward into the future. These young teachers deserve to know the information that will help them make the very best decisions to enjoy a productive and rewarding teaching career. They deserve to know the facts about teaching and living in Walker’s Wisconsin and the many ways that their careers will be different if they choose to leave Walker’s Wisconsin.

  57. Joe says:

    “Go 25 miles south into Illinois and they will reach that salary in their 10th year”

    Yeah…because Illinois is a fiscal model for all of us to follow.

  58. Vincent Hanna says:

    But Dave what if you want to try and make it better? Aren’t some things worth fighting for? Do you persuade a lot of people with comments like that, or do you only say such things anonymously on the Internet?

  59. Vincent Hanna says:

    Humble you are not Justin. Are you sworn to secrecy? Are you not at liberty to divulge who pays for or organizes your presentation? I understand what you do, but there are other questions.

  60. Dave says:

    What it I want to try and make it better? I did until the fools in this state sealed our fate voting for the college dropout a third time sealing our fate. Joe, I will be taking my family and our upper middle class income out of this state as soon as our house is above water. We foolishly purchased a house here in 2010 thinking it’d be a nice place to make a home.

  61. Will says:

    I respect the hell out of teachers, but one should not expect to be paid anything more than the low end of middle class if that is the profession they chose. I really cant think of any teacher at any level that deserves to make 6 figures. Elizabeth Warren making 350k to teach 1 class at Harvard is borderline theft of public funds. Teaching should be a calling, and a reasonable wage should be granted. 6 figures for any teacher imo isn’t reasonable.

  62. Joe says:

    I dislike the current politics of this state but i can’t imagine living anywhere else. Sounds like you made a bad decision. Best of luck to you.

  63. Will says:

    Sorry, harvard is private, but my point stands

  64. Vincent Hanna says:

    Why do you respect them so much even as so many are overpaid Will? What’s a reasonable wage and how do you come to that determination?

    Same here Joe.

  65. Joe says:


    Does your point really stand? Warren was a pretty qualified person when she taught at Harvard and she was there a long time. I don’t really cry over whatever it costs to go to Harvard anyways.

  66. Rich says:

    References for actual data pertinent to Will’s comment #62

    Definition of Middle Class:

    Teacher salaries in WI:

    I checked the stats for Milwaukee Teachers…Only 20 of them exceed the top-end of the middle class category and a spot check shows that many of them have Masters degrees and decades of teaching experience. The online database doesn’t make other analyses very easy.

  67. Justin says:

    Many of the teachers who are fleeing Walker’s Wisconsin are actually going to Minnesota which has been kicking the A$$ of Walker’s Wisconsin for the past 5 years. In Minnesota, that same teacher will reach the $75,000 salary in about 12-15 years, depending on the district. Minnesota is a fiscal and economic model for Walker’s Wisconsin to follow.

    Will’s comment on what teachers should earn in salary is reflective of the majority of residents in Walker’s Wisconsin. About $50,000 per year maximum lifetime salary. Which is exactly what 90% of the new teachers will ever earn in any school district in Walker’s Wisconsin. Well below any other state in the Midwest. With FAR worse working conditions.

    If I gave the same presentation at the Wisconsin GOP convention about how Act 10 has absolutely decimated the lives and futures of Wisconsin teachers, I would have received a Standing Ovation. Maybe even a nomination to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (of course not)

    The truth of the matter is that many of these young teachers WILL accept their first teaching job in a school district in Walker’s Wisconsin. Within their first few years, they will experience everything that I described as normalcy in Walker’s Wisconsin. Most of the teachers fleeing Walker’s Wisconsin are the just entering their most productive professional years-5-10 years of experience. They are going to states where teachers are still respected in words and in actions-being paid commensurate with their education and experience, and receiving fair employment practices. I have been working with these future teachers for five years now. Occasionally I receive email “thank you’s” from teachers who have found employment in one of the few good districts left in Walker’s Wisconsin and from teachers who have fled Walker’s Wisconsin.

    I will never be ashamed of sharing the true stories of how teachers’ lives and futures have been changed by Act 10 in order to help the newest teachers find the best possible career opportunities.

  68. AG says:

    Justin, how is 50k a maximum lifetime salary if the median Wisconsin teacher salary, before benefits, is about 50k?

  69. Justin says:

    The organization that I work with has collected data from school districts across Wisconsin. To answer your question, the median salary is skewed by the number of older teachers whose salaries are still reflective of Wisconsin pre-Scott Walker when teachers could earn maximum salaries of $60,000-$80,000.

    Teachers entering the profession in Walker’s Wisconsin often start at salaries between $30,000-$40,000 with no career salary advancement above the rate of inflation. Some school districts’ compensation plans show maximum salaries of $80,000-$100,000, but upon analysis, the salary growth rate struggles to even keep up with inflation-ie. no “real” salary growth at all.

    Hence, in Walker’s Wisconsin, Act 10 has truly turned K12 teaching into a “dead end job” where a teacher’s starting salary is literally their maximum career salary adjusted for inflation. Little wonder why so many math, science, and technical education teachers are fleeing teaching positions for the growth potential of private industry or if they really enjoy teaching, fleeing Walker’s Wisconsin for other states.

    Nationally, Walker’s Wisconsin is one of only a few states where the average teacher salary has declined precipitously over the past 5 years, and continues on a downward spiral as greater numbers of older, more highly paid teachers retire.

    Walker’s Wisconsin also has two other dubious “honors” as a direct result of Act 10. The number of teachers with advanced degrees or any education above the entry level degree (BA or BS) has declined more in Walker’s Wisconsin than in any other state in America.

    In addition, Walker’s Wisconsin has the greatest increase of classrooms taught by teachers with less than 5 years of experience than any other state in America. There are two factors driving this increase; One is the number of older, experienced teachers retiring. (also occurring in states across America). The reason Walker’s Wisconsin “wins” this category is because we are losing so many teachers who either flee the state or flee teaching after putting up with 5 years of teaching in the overcrowded classrooms, etc… that result from a state that has cut funding for public education by over 3 billion dollars since Walker was elected.

  70. AG says:

    Justin, you are so full of it! Why don’t you answer Vincent’s question on who’s funding you? Plus, please make your data available. Everything I am finding completely contradicts what you are saying. I’m even overlooking the fact that you cherry pick situations and specific comparisons. For example, the new berlin meeting video where you take a politically charged situation where people from all over SE Wisconsin came to fight the school board and act like that’s the norm. No one condones what happened between the pro and anti union supports, but that sort of thing is not typical.

    Even the data on your own website is so full of BS. I am pretty sure I can smell it through my screen. The comparisons on salaries between New Berlin and ISD 196 in Minnesota is completely fabricated. Here is a linik to the false comparison and then the link to the actual salary schedules.




    The one thing that gives me solace is remembering last time you brought this up we found out you only visited like 2 classrooms. I’m hoping that’s still the case.

  71. AG says:

    Justin, you are so full of it! Why don’t you answer Vincent’s question on who’s funding you? Plus, please make your data available. Everything I am finding completely contradicts what you are saying. I’m even overlooking the fact that you cherry pick situations and specific comparisons. For example, the new berlin meeting video where you take a politically charged situation where people from all over SE Wisconsin came to fight the school board and act like that’s the norm. No one condones what happened between the pro and anti union supports, but that sort of thing is not typical.

    Even the data your own website is so full of BS. I am pretty sure I can smell it through my screen. The comparisons on salaries between New Berlin and ISD 196 in minnesota is completely fabricated. Here is a linik to the false comparison and then the link to the actual salary schedules.


    [apparently UM doesn’t let you post multiple links in a comment… but you can easily google the new Berlin and ISD 196 salary schedules to see the truth]

    The one thing that gives me solace is remembering last time you brought this up we found out you only visited like 2 classrooms. I’m hoping that’s still the case.

  72. Dave says:

    “I dislike the current politics of this state but i can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

    Joe, we’ve been in Wisconsin for over 15 years. Prior to 2010, this was a state where we felt comfortable raising children. The primary education system was good. State university system was top notch. The Wisconsin Idea was still strong. Our natural resources were respected and middle class, while struggling post recession, was not being further decimated by state policy. Little did we know the cliff we were about to be pushed over. I have a hard time imagining a scenario we are closer to 180 degrees away from where we were pre 2010. I also have zero confidence in things getting better for years and years to come. While some people may be sick of the GOP dumpster fire, there is still a strong voting population of ignorant people who, along with massive gerrymandering and voter suppression policy, will ensure GOP strangle hold on state legislature for the foreseeable future. Trust me, it’s not like this everywhere else. There are states that value public education and don’t treat their public employees like garbage. I would encourage young professionals to get out of this state while they still can. We will. As soon as it is financially feasible. We’ll miss Milwaukee but Wisconsin of today can go fly a kite.

  73. Joe says:


    That’s interesting. I’ve always considered Wisconsin’s (and especially Milwaukee’s) primary education system to be pretty average, regardless of what Walker has done. I also think the UW system is still a tremendously good place to get an education. Guess we just see things differently.

    Best of luck wherever you go.

  74. Vincent Hanna says:

    You going to try and move to Minnesota Dave? Which states are doing well and have good leadership?

    Justin you keep ignoring me but I (and others) am asking valid questions. Who funds you? Who organizes your presentations? Are teacher prep programs in the state aware of them?

  75. AD says:

    I am really torn on this subject. I really believe that we need to invest in great educational systems and if that requires the state to pay competitive salaries, it needs to be done. On the other hand, paying professors $200k for working 9 months out of a 12 month year is not sustainable. And bankrupting students with a $170k undergrad bill is obscene! The national college/university educational system is broken from a fiscal standpoint with these outrageously high tuition costs. Where is all this money going? Infrastructure, management, teaching staff? College is heading towards becoming an option for only the elite 1%ers.

  76. QX4guy says:

    “As soon as it is financially feasible”, Dave says, he will be leaving Wisconsin. Lots of people have been doing so very comfortably (financially) for years and years. I have numerous examples from my circle of friends who used to live nearby us in the City of Milwaukee, and now are in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, the Carolinas, etc.

    Most recently a “dear friends” retired couple moved from their downtown condo where they were paying 2+ times more in property taxes than they are now paying for a nicer (bigger, newer, on a golf course) condo on the outskirts of Denver. It stumps me how Milwaukee can collect the taxes they do and not be flush with money for all sorts of improvements in education and other aspects of government services. Poor leadership, probably.

    It makes financial sense for many of us to move. With the prospect of saving a few hundred dollars a month on property taxes, and paying a lower amount for utilities and other services, it’s very logical to make a move to MANY other states where the weather is better, too. So, assuming Dave has marketable skills, and if he gets a better accountant to run the numbers, he can probably search for greener and cheaper pastures next week.

    I don’t like to hear that talented education-sector people are leaving the state, but there are fields of study (like English, for example) where many professors ARE overpaid by making big six figure incomes with no risk and very little stress. They can be replaced by much less senior people without any perceptible falloff in the quality of instruction. In fact, it might be better; my young English teacher in high school was as good as any I encountered at university. I took a lot of English courses (my minor) in university because they were known as “Mickeys” and you could get a good grade with little applied effort. English teachers, good ones, need not be expensive and English is hardly a dynamic subject like other fields that require currency on new developments.

    Regarding pay for professors (my wife was one) ….. Higher education really IS big business now, considering the resources it consumes and the money it brings in. Anyone working in Big Education should understand that and be prepared for the consequences. In my thriving company (I retired as an owner), a person could expect rapid and substantial increases in compensation, sometimes “astronomical”, but that didn’t happen as a result of doing essentially the same job over a period of many years. It didn’t happen as an outgrowth of getting some inflated title while not making a difference on the company’s profit statement. It didn’t come from adding another degree on your resume, and certainly not by belonging to a union where the emphasis is on job security and so-called “fairness” for the least productive members.

    Instead, you moved up if and when your contributions grew into new areas or involved much higher quantifiable output and greater responsibility. If that was not your cup of tea, and you just wanted to be comfortable, that was okay too, but it was made clear you’d be limited to minor increases in pay, if any, as long as you wanted to stay if your performance was consistent.

    So, if one wants the life of a high-paid academic, go for it, wherever that takes you. Move on and move around. It’s a fact that those who change employers move ahead faster in pay level, because there’s always someone willing to pay top dollar for some credentials and a bit of personal salesmanship.

  77. Vincent Hanna says:

    Professors do not work only 9 months. I don’t understand why anyone believes that. The ones who don’t teach in the summer are still working. They advise students, conduct research, write papers and books, prep for upcoming classes, attend department meetings, attend conferences, give presentations, and so on. That’s not a complete list. Please, please stop with this 9 months crap. It’s not true.

  78. JK says:

    Oh my, there is more here than I could cover in an entire semester of 50-minute classes full of students eager to learn exactly what last year’s students learned. Perhaps the author has forgotten, after spending years in a tenure track position at a state university, that her employer is not a for-profit enterprise and her industry is not part of a natural market. Rather than economic principles like scarcity, supply and demand, her employer has grown the past 20 years in line with the population. Now days, universities grow not by doing better, but by doing more. They build elaborate entertainment and sports complexes, health clubs and pools to attract students. They have the support of tax dollars as well as a financial lending industry with marketing plans intent on tapping the regrets of parents who while not finishing school themselves, wish for their child to attend “the best” university. How do you define value for your end customers who are the parents themselves when they mistake the quality sports teams for the quality of education? While I do not agree with Walker’s politics, I appreciate an attempt to artificially control costs in a system where no downward pressure on costs exists!

    My advice to the author…you will always find someone to pay you more for what you do. The question is whether you are willing to move and do the work. It is better to leave gracefully because your industry is a small one and you will need old relationships in the future. You might have missed that opportunity, however.

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