Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series outlines the ‘upheaval’ Act 10 has created for schools

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel launched a series of articles this week examining the impact of Wisconsin Act 10, a five-year-old law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for educators and most public employees in Wisconsin. The comprehensive series is based on research and interviews with educators throughout the state (WEAC assisted in arranging for interviews of many members to make sure educators’ voices were included.) The first articles that appeared on Sunday (October 9, 2016) explored what it considered both the pros and cons of the five-year-old law. While people with varying opinions on the impact of Act 10 were interviewed, there was considerable sentiment that Act 10 has created a lot of chaos for school districts throughout the state while harming the teaching profession. The selected excerpts below focus on some of the portions of the article (written by Dave Umhoefer and Sarah Hauer) that outline harmful effects of Act 10:

  • The main headline was “Uproar over Act 10 turns into upheaval in Wisconsin schools”.
  • The law has “erected hurdles” for school districts, “splitting school leaders over the repercussions from changes that can put less financially well-off districts at a disadvantage.”
  • Exactly 75% of districts are losing their teachers more often after Act 10 because a competitor offered a better salary or benefits, the survey found.
  • The churn rate can be dizzying: Nearly one-fourth of the teaching staff in Dodgeville, in southwest Wisconsin, departed this summer, mostly to job-hopping.
  • By a 10-point margin, school superintendents see a negative rather than positive effect on teaching quality from “free agency,” retirements and other turnover.
  • Teacher retirements surged when protections on benefits fell: Two-thirds of districts report trimming or ending post-employment benefits for some or all future retirees.
  • In the wake of Act 10, fears about impending cuts helped spur the largest rate of retirements in two decades — some 5,100 teachers in 2011 alone, with most districts seeing an increase.
  • Many school district leaders criticize the costly, time-consuming and sometimes-chaotic competition that marks the new “free agent” teacher marketplace.
  • Act 10 limited raises on base wages to the rate of inflation — 0.12% or $48 on a salary of $40,000 this year. The law sliced teacher take-home pay by mandating a pension contribution from workers. “It will be a considerable time before people feel whole again,” said Milwaukee Superintendent Darienne Driver.
  • Just over 60% of districts surveyed said teachers’ average annual salary growth had either slowed (50%), stopped (8%) or reversed (3%).
  • The financial hit pushed teachers to move to where they could make more money. In the past, teacher mobility was concentrated in shortage areas such as technical and special education. Now it is also common in core teaching areas.
  • In West Allis-West Milwaukee, turnover tripled amid a teacher backlash against rapid changes in technology, workloads and student behavior policies, as well as teacher fears about raising objections without union protection.
  • East Troy High School lost ground when 25% of its staff departed in one year, mostly to free agency, including an AP calculus teacher recruited by text message during the district’s opening week inservice, (former principal Rick) Penniston recalled. “It took us six weeks to fill it with a full timer,” he said.
  • To Rick Erickson, a nationally recognized high school science teacher in Bayfield, there’s something awful about having to threaten to leave to get a raise. “I don’t want education to be like that,” he said.
  • A little more than 25% of districts said Act 10 helped them better motivate teachers — but 60% said the opposite, often citing low teacher morale.
  • Attractive working conditions — not just pay — are a huge driver in keeping and luring new teachers. For many teachers, the wiping away of work rules negotiated by unions over decades means the work is harder, more time-consuming, more pressure-packed.
  • Wisconsin’s pool of newly graduated teaching students from education colleges continues to shrink — as does the nation’s. From 2008 to 2014, enrollment in Wisconsin teacher preparation programs fell 28%, a decline that started before Act 10. “The quality and the quantity have really gone down,” said (Louise) Blankenheim, the Kiel superintendent.

Read the entire lead article:

From teacher ‘free agency’ to merit pay, the uproar over Act 10

In the minds of many teachers, collective bargaining was a permanent right. Until the early 1960s, though, teachers weren’t organized and had little political power. Many teachers saw collective bargaining as the province of private-sector industrial unions, not public-sector professionals. Sometimes, an unexpected gift changes everything.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel series outlines the ‘upheaval’ Act 10 has created for school districts

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel launched a series of articles this week examining the impact of Wisconsin Act 10, a five-year-old law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for educators and most public employees in Wisconsin. The comprehensive series is based on research and interviews with…