Some Wisconsin Districts Struggle to Hire Teachers before School Starts
As the new school year approaches, some Wisconsin school districts are finding it difficult to attract candidates to fill vacant teaching jobs.
According to recent news reports:
- The LaCrosse school district is struggling to fill 23 vacancies before the 2015-16 school year starts. A school district official said the number of applicants for openings has dropped in recent years.
- The Portage school district has hired 32 full-time teaching positions in recent months, with still more positions to fill before school beings. “We’ve had a significant decrease in the number of people we see applying for positions,” said a school district administrator.
- Schools in Southeastern Wisconsin are having a hard time finding substitute teachers. Officials from the Yorkville, Whitewater, Elkhorn, Fond du Lac, North Fond du Lac, Rosendale-Brandon, and Green Lake school districts said their districts struggle to hire substitutes.
Officials from those school districts cited a number of reasons for their difficulty in hiring teachers, including state-level changes to salaries, benefits, and collective bargaining rights of school district employees (changes that are sometimes collectively referred to as Act 10); dissatisfaction among potential job applicants with the growing emphasis on standardized testing for students; and an improving economy that offers a wider range of career options.
Some other districts across the country are having trouble finding enough teachers in the classrooms. Large urban districts in Kentucky, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, California, and North Carolina are having trouble hiring teachers, according to this article in yesterday’s New York Times. A decline in the number of people who want to be teachers is at the root of the problem, according to an official at a teacher education program: “There are not enough people who will look at teacher education or being a teacher as a job they want to pursue.” Teacher shortages tend to be regional rather than national, partly because the relatively low pay of teaching jobs limits the willingness of potential job candidates to move.
Graduation trends from the University of Wisconsin System lend support to the theory that teaching is becoming a less attractive career path for students. The share of bachelor degrees awarded by the UW System in education dropped to 8.0% in 2013-14 from 10.4% in 2003-04, although the actual number of education degrees awarded stayed fairly level over that period.
In some ways, it’s not a surprise that some school districts in Wisconsin and elsewhere are having trouble finding teachers to hire. The teaching profession has undergone dramatic changes in recent years, particularly in Wisconsin. The state has sharply increased the amount of money that teachers and other public workers pay for health and retirement benefits, and has limited salary increases. At the same time, lawmakers continue to place new demands on teachers. If we want to make sure that schools are able to hire well-qualified teachers to teach Wisconsin students, we need to make sure we can offer potential teachers a job with competitive salaries and benefits and a good working environment.