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Report: Wisconsin Spending Cuts Lead to Teacher Shortages

A new report shows Wisconsin lagging far behind in hiring teachers of color. (shironosov/iStockPhoto.com)
A new report shows Wisconsin lagging far behind in hiring teachers of color. (shironosov/iStockPhoto.com)
January 19, 2017

MADISON, Wis. – Between 2005 and 2014, spending by Wisconsin school districts declined by 5.4 percent per student, while the national average showed an increase of 4.2 percent over the same period.

And Tamarine Cornelius, who authored a report for the Wisconsin Budget Project, says the state's ranking in school spending has slipped from 13th to 21st in that time period.

She says this has led to tangible difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers.

"Those shortages are most acute for schools in northern Wisconsin, and they're also most acute for school districts that are trying to hire teachers for STEM fields – things like math and science and technology or engineering," she explains.

In addition to the teacher shortage, Wisconsin school districts also face a dramatic shortfall in teachers of color. Students of color represent 29 percent of all students, compared with just 5 percent of teachers.

The new study also reveals that Wisconsin has had the biggest decline of any state in spending on teacher benefits, such as health insurance premiums and retirement benefits.

Cornelius says Act 10 is one of the reasons spending is down, making it harder to recruit teachers, but so has the recent rise in negativity about teachers.

"That, I think, feeds into making teaching seem like a less attractive profession because who wants to go into a profession when it's denigrated to the extent that it has been over the last couple years,” she stresses. “Those things apply both in Wisconsin and nationally."

Faced with these factors, Cornelius says Wisconsin school districts have lowered their standards in hiring teachers. She says the people of the state are going to have to ask themselves if being average is good enough.

"And only 10 states had bigger declines in school spending,” she points out. “Wisconsin residents have long recognized that having an excellent public school system is a key to having a well educated workforce and a strong middle class. But we need to make investments to keep that true, and whereas we were once a leader in supporting our schools we're now pretty close to average."



Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI