March 16, 2022

Wisconsin Educators Welcome ‘Teaching Is a Profession’ Package

Wisconsin Educators Welcome ‘Teaching Is a Profession’ Package Featured Image

WEAC calls bills a step forward to solve the school staffing shortage

WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen is welcoming a package of bills aimed at addressing the massive staffing shortages in Wisconsin’s K-12 schools.

Our union collaborated with elected officials to bring forward  some of the legislative solutions included in WEAC’s platform for solving the educator shortage.

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“Teachers, support staff and parents continue to do everything we possibly can so students are successful, supported and safe,” Wirtz-Olsen said. “Ask any educator, in any school district. Our workload has dramatically increased – even before the pandemic and much worse now – as classes are combined, preparation time is eliminated and we are filling in for other grades and courses. Educators have brought forward our solutions to the educator shortage and this legislation shows that some lawmakers are listening.”

This legislative package supports maintaining our education workforce through treating our teachers as professionals once again. It includes establishing a minimum pay threshold to pay educators fairly. The package also creates mandated preparation periods, gives teachers a voice on school boards, lessens the burden of repaying student loans and more.

The package in brief:

  • Set minimum teacher pay tied to legislators’ own pay.
  • Create an hourly wage for student teachers.
  • Establish a non-voting seat for an educator on school boards.
  • Set up a teacher pledge loan repayment program.
  • Give bonuses to teachers who stay in the same district.
  • Pay teachers for their prep time, like preparing lessons and grading.
  • Pay teachers for time spent on non-classroom activities, like supervising lunch.
  • Give teachers the same health insurance received by Wisconsin legislators.

WEAC has been advocating at the state level for solutions to the staffing shortages developed by frontline educators, with campaigns to contact lawmakers and listening sessions as the workforce crisis mounts. A recent report shows that education degrees declined by nearly 13 percent in Wisconsin after the repeal of collective bargaining rights.

“In addressing the need to attract and retain quality educators, we must listen to the folks in the field who have had their voices long silenced,” legislators bringing forward the package said. “Respect, support and appreciation must be reestablished … in the teaching field.”

Here’s a look at the proposals:

  • Establishes a minimum starting salary for public k-12 educators and tiered upgrades dependent on acquiring an advanced degree and years of service. This bill requires a school board to pay a full-time teacher an annual salary in each school year that is not less than the annual salary paid to a state legislator for that school year (base salary). In addition, if a teacher has worked as a teacher for at least 10 school years and has obtained a master’s degree in a related field, the bill requires a school board to pay the teacher an annual salary that is not less than the base salary for the school year plus $15,000. Finally, if a teacher has worked as a teacher for at least 20 school years and has obtained a master’s degree in a related field, the bill requires a school board to pay the teacher an annual salary that is not less than $100,000. AB-1161 (SB 1059)
  • Public School district employees receive the same health benefits as state legislators. Under the bill, a municipal employer is required to offer a health insurance plan that is offered by the Group Insurance Board to eligible employees of a school district. AB-1154 (SB 1060)
  • Establishes a continuous $7,000 bonus for educators who are employed within the same school district for five years. Under this bill, the Department of Public Instruction must pay a $7,000 bonus to any teacher who has been licensed by DPI and employed by a school board continuously for five school years. Under the bill, the first school year counted for the longevity bonus payments is the 2022-23 school year, such that DPI will begin making bonus payments in the 2027-28 school year. Teachers are eligible for additional bonus payments for subsequent five-year periods that do not overlap. The bonus is not considered earnings for the purposes of the Wisconsin Retirement System. AB-1155 (SB 1061)
  • Mandated, self-directed Educator preparation periods. This bill requires each school board to ensure that a teacher’s daily schedule includes preparation time of at least 45 minutes or the equivalent of one class period, whichever is greater. AB-1160 (SB 1056)
  • Educator duties outside of classroom instruction are voluntary or compensated. This bill prohibits a school board from requiring its teachers to perform any services outside of regular classroom instruction unless the school board either compensates the teacher for his or her time or the teacher volunteers to perform the services. Under current law, a school must provide each teacher a daily duty-free 30-minute lunch period, or the school board may enter into a contract with a teacher for services during the teacher’s lunch period. AB-1159 (SB 1057)
  • Establishes Educator representation (non-voting) on district school boards. Under this bill, each school board must, in addition to its regular elected members, have one teacher representative who is not a member and does not vote at school board meetings but who is entitled to attend all school board meetings. The bill provides that the teacher representative to a school board must be an employee of the school district who is employed in a teaching role. The teacher representative is selected by the employees of the school district who are employed in teaching roles by secret ballot held no later than the spring election, which is the election at which school board members are elected. The bill directs each school district clerk to establish the timelines and procedures for providing notice of and conducting the secret ballot and for notifying interested persons regarding the result of the secret ballot. The bill provides that a teacher representative takes office on the same date that school board members take office, which is the fourth Monday in April. The regular term of a teacher representative is three years, except that, in a first class city school district (currently, only Milwaukee Public Schools), the term of a teacher representative is four years. AB-1158 (SB 1058)
  • Established a base pay for student teachers at least $15/hour. Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, this bill requires a school board to pay each student teacher who student teaches in the school district an hourly wage of at least $15 per hour. The bill also requires the Department of Public Instruction to reimburse school boards for the cost of paying student teachers an hourly wage of $15 per hour. Under the bill, annually on the 3rd Monday in June, DPI must provide aid to school boards in an amount equal to $15 times the total number of hours student teachers student taught in the school district during the preceding school term. AB-1157 (SB 1062)
  • UW Teacher Pledge. This bill creates a teacher pledge loan repayment program to be administered by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Under the program, individuals may apply to have the board repay loans incurred while enrolled in a UW System institution teacher education program. To be eligible to participate in the loan repayment program, an individual must do all of the following: 1) obtain a teacher license from the Department of Public Instruction within one year of successful completion of a teacher education program at a UW System institution; 2) hold at least a 75 percent teaching position in a public elementary or secondary school in this state; and 3) agree to hold at least a 75 percent teaching position in a public elementary or secondary school in this state for five of the seven years following the individual’s completion of the teacher education program. The board may repay 25 percent of an eligible participant’s educational loan principal and interest after each full academic year in which the individual held a 75 percent or greater teaching position in a public elementary or secondary school in this state. AB-1156 (SB 1063)