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Wisconsin Teachers Retire En Masse In Response to Cuts

Wisconsin Teachers Retire En Masse In Response to Cuts

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his GOP cronies in the Legislature strong-armed through a union-busting bill, they touted the effects it would have on the free market. Well, the market has spoken, and it’s not happy. Associate Press reported today that teachers in Wisconsin are retiring at twice the normal rate in response to budget cuts that affect their benefits and ability to collectively bargain.

Though many public sectors in Wisconsin are seeing more retirements than usual, for schools this is especially problematic, as fewer teachers means even larger class sizes. It’s quickly turning into a veritable teacher shortage; the district of Beloit, for example, has seen 10% of their teachers retire, meaning that they have far more vacancies than they can reasonably hope to fill before the year starts.

Perhaps an even bigger problem is that most of the retirements are coming from veteran teachers, who have been in the system for years. Green Bay German teacher Ginny Fleck is quoted by AP as saying, “All of the leadership is gone. Some of these younger people who come in need help from the older teachers and they are gone. Plus, the morale is really down.” Fleck goes on to say that one reason why she considered leaving was the economics: if she was to stay as a teacher, the hit she would take would have been so large that she would have lost $8,000.

This goes far beyond the issue of unions — whether or not one likes them, good teachers are crucial to building our nation’s present and our future. Paul Doro of the Milwaukee Progressive Examiner makes the excellent point that “People who support exorbitant executive pay (often the same people eagerly criticizing teachers) claim that it is necessary to attract top talent. Do they really not realize that this applies to educators as well?”

This rhetorical question is supported by a strong empirical background. The New York Times reported last year that good teachers deserve salaries in excess of 300,000 per year, because that’s how much good for society they create each year. Similarly, the research and consulting outfit McKinsey found that higher teacher pay would mean that more young, talented, recent graduates would be able to bring in enough income to make a career out of teaching. But now, just the opposite is happening.

So basically, all of the research shows that if the market went where it wanted to go, then teachers should be making more money. But conservatives like Walker oppose doing that because of… the market. Ironically, Walker has no qualms using state funds to line his cronies’ pockets, paying private attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars more than public attorneys for similar work.

This all just goes to show where the Republican priorities are — it’s not about balancing the budget or fixing the deficit, it’s about getting themselves a bigger slice of the pie, no matter the cost to others. Unfortunately, today in Wisconsin those costs became all too apparent. Punishing teachers, though it may reduce costs in the short term, mean that our children are going to have to deal with the consequences — overworked and inexperienced teachers manning stuffed classrooms.

Related Stories:

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Photo from Fibonacci Blue via flickr.

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196 comments

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4:35PM PDT on Sep 12, 2011

Those that retired were probably just 'biding their time' and not doing the job right anyway. Sitting on their rears, taking advantage of benefits that most don't ever have and doing as little 'teaching' as possible. I remember some of those in my own HS years and also many 'old ones' still supposidly teaching my children in grade school. Good riiddens to wellshers...or whatever........let some young and new, with fresh ideas take over where they left off..........and this from an old woman................

1:52PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

So these supposedly dedicated professionals are retiring "en masse" because of fears they won't be able to use their unions to increase their wages/retirement plans...not that you note that they may be (likely are) retiring while they can get out of paying more for their health care/retirement packages.

Funny how to you progs the only time financial incentives mean anything is when they apply to union members. Even then you only look at how the union members suffer by being put onto the same boat as non union members in the private sector.

Using the NYTs for any economic stats is a VERY weak reed in support of teacher salaries. Do some basic thought and what do you think would happen if every teacher got paid the 300k the NYTs claims is deserved? For instance children, where does that money for the salaries come from? You think state budgets already collapsing under employee costs can handle it without vicious tax increases? Then what happens at college level? Those people tend to be even more educated, do they deserve even more? What a can of worms reliance on this kind of thinking you libs would open...at a time when Americans are openly in revolt over the poor quality of many US schools.

Nope, these teachers are quitting to get what they can while the getting is good. Sadly its being upheld for them (as government workers) while daily damned on those in the private sector. Hardly anyone even understands there is a huge cost to the taxpayers here. The st

1:24AM PDT on Sep 8, 2011

Thank you for an interesting article.

6:10PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

Vote this governor out of office at the next opportunity.

12:17PM PDT on Sep 5, 2011

There's a crack in the Washington Monument.

7:05PM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

cont'd

A union doesn't mean you can't fire a bad teacher. It makes it hard to fire someone for no reason, such as many people in right-to-work situations experience. If there is misconduct or incompetence, you most certainly can be fired. Any good principal knows how teachers are doing. I know at my last school he popped in unannounced every day, and my current school is like that as well. If anyone's not doing a good job, he will know and take the necessary steps.

7:04PM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

First of all, it DOES negatively impact students to remove the unions collective bargaining. We could keep things like prep time and smaller class sizes, but now we can't negotiate for that. And we do not offer as good a situation as other states.

How will you "import" more teachers? Every surrounding state and most states in fact, have teacher unions that have the ability to bargain. We took pay cuts to get a good pension, so now Walker takes that away, too, and we can't compete. Less pay and less good benefits.

Hedge fund managers need 6 figure salaries and million dollar bonuses to "attract talent". A teacher new to my district makes about 35,000 a year. If you are already making more than that in another state or in the private sector, why would you take a pay cut AND gve up real union representation? What kind of teachers do you honestly think 35K and no bargaining are going to get?

I used to have a racist principal, who, when I didn't quit from the harassment, had me fired. The union insisted on due process, so I kept my job because I had done nothing wrong. I know other teachers who have had similar experience when students accused them of an inappropriate comment ("we can get rid of you" by the students), but several adult witnesses said it never happened. The teacher was fired on the spot but the union helped handle the hearing to get a great teacher reinstated. If evidence had shown the accusations to be true, of course they would be fired. A union doesn't

4:35PM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

Governor Walker will, only, learn the 'hard way'. He won't acknowledge the _errors of his way_, until his state starts falling, scholastically behind other states.
He is determined to follow the lead of the Koch Brothers and their cohorts.

12:09PM PDT on Sep 4, 2011

If we value people, we need to show that by action. If we value corporations and their nonsense about jobs, then stay asleep and voting against yourself.

2:22AM PDT on Sep 3, 2011

Thanks for the article.

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