Anti-union legislation in RTW Wisconsin has significantly damaged the state’s public education system

ATTACKING THE FUTURE: Students, teachers and other public sector workers rally at Wisconsin’s State Capitol in Madison in 2011 prior to passage of Act 10 which eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for teachers and other public sector workers. Wisconsin children and families are now paying the price with a crumbling education system. – Andy Manis/AP photo

Following the passage of Act 10, legislation championed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) that eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for public-sector workers, Wisconsin’s public education system has seen significant harm, new research from the American Worker Project finds.

The research is particularly relevant because members of Congress as well as state elected officials in Illinois and Minnesota are considering similar legislation to attack public-sector employees.

Teacher compensation and experience in “right-to-work” Wisconsin have dropped significantly and turnover rates have increased — all warning signs to Congress and other states considering similar legislation, because the results have negatively impacted Wisconsin children and families.

Enacted in 2011, Act 10 virtually eliminated collective bargaining rights and slashed benefits for most of the state’s public-sector workers.


“Gov. Scott Walker and Republican elected leaders in Wisconsin said that Act 10 would benefit schools and families alike. They couldn’t have been more wrong,” said David Madland, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, senior adviser to the American Worker Project, and co-author of the analysis.

“What has actually happened is that Wisconsin’s public education system has suffered a major blow since anti-union legislation was enacted. An attack on teachers and other public sector workers doesn’t just hurt those employees — everyone in Wisconsin will bear this impact,” Madland said.


“As a result of Act 10, teachers receive significantly lower compensation, turnover rates are much higher, and teacher experience has dropped significantly,” said Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling.

“Rather than encouraging the best and the brightest to become teachers and remain in the field throughout their career, Act 10 has demonized and devalued the teaching profession and driven away many teachers,” Shilling said.


The American Worker Project analysis used data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and found:

• Reduced teacher compensation. In the year immediately following the law’s passage, median compensation for Wisconsin teachers decreased by 8.2 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, with median benefits being cut by 18.6 percent and the median salary falling by 2.6 percent. Median salaries and benefits continued to fall during the next four years so that median compensation in the 2015-16 school year was 12.6 percent — or $10,843 dollars — lower than it was before the passage of Act 10.

• Higher teacher turnover rates. The percentage of teachers who left the profession spiked to 10.5 percent after the 2010-11 school year, up from 6.4 percent in the year before Act 10 was implemented. Exit rates have remained higher than before, with 8.8 percent of teachers leaving after the 2015-16 school year—the most recent school year for which data are available.

• Greater percentage of less-experienced teachers, and a decline in overall teacher experience. The percentage of teachers with less than five years of experience increased from 19.6 percent in the 2010-11 school year to 24.1 percent in the 2015-16 school year. Average teaching experience decreased from 14.6 years in the 2010-11 school year to 13.9 in the 2011-12 school year, which is where it remained in the 2015-16 school year.

• Higher rate of inter-district moves. Inter-district moves — when a teacher leaves one Wisconsin district to teach at another the next school year — has increased from 1.3 percent before the passage of Act 10 to 3.4 percent at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

• Reduction in student performance and outcomes. Peer-reviewed research on Act 10’s effects on student outcomes has yet to be published, but several academics have produced working papers examining the law’s impact on Wisconsin students.

This research is consistent with the authors’ findings that Act 10 has led to reduced teacher experience, increased exit rates, increased inter-district teacher transfers, and thus has likely reduced student outcomes. Indeed, a recent working paper found that Act 10 had reduced statewide student achievement on science and math.

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Education under attack in Missouri and Illinois, too

Missouri’s Republican Gov. Eric Greitens has launched his own attack on public education, stacking the State Board of Education with political appointees in his effort to replace Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven with a charter schools supporter.

Greitens campaigned on a platform that included enlarging the presence of charter schools in Missouri.

Last week, Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association said that such a move could have a negative impact on public schools, especially in rural areas where charter expansion would encourage school district consolidation.

Three of Greitens’ appointees, Claudia Onate Greim, Eddy Justice and Doug Russell, called on the board to hold a special meeting this week (Nov. 21, after Labor Tribune press time) where they were expected to discuss Vandeven’s removal.

One newly appointed State Board member, Tim Sumners, called on his fellow newly appointed members to “follow the Constitutional duties of the State Board”.

Sumners told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he’s concerned his stance on the matter could cost him his appointment.  “I am fully aware my position may not last long,” Sumners said.


Meanwhile, Illinois is facing a statewide teacher shortage as a result of instability and repeated crises created by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

According to the State Journal-Register, school superintendents have been unable to fill 2,000 open positions in part because of the state’s recent budget impasse and uncertainty around school funding. The inability to fill positions has led to canceled programs in 16 percent of schools surveyed, hitting special education, language arts and math and science classes the hardest.

“Bruce Rauner manufactured a historic budget crisis and vetoed school funding to force his special interest agenda on working families, and Illinois schools are paying the price,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokesman for Democrat J.B. Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign. “It’s no surprise Illinois’ best and brightest don’t want to be held hostage to the whims of this failed governor.”




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