Teacher Appreciation Week: Number of Teachers in Wisconsin has Declined
Today wraps up Teacher Appreciation Week, when the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) suggests we make a special effort to let teachers know that their hard work in schools and classrooms makes a difference to children in our communities. In Wisconsin, there are fewer teachers to appreciate than there used to be.
The number of teachers in public schools in Wisconsin has dropped by about 5% over the last five years, as Wisconsin lost about 2,900 teachers. Student enrollment in Wisconsin public schools stayed virtually flat over that same period, resulting in more crowded classrooms.
It’s not altogether clear why the number of teachers in Wisconsin has decreased over the last few years. The decline in Wisconsin isn’t part of a larger trend – the number of teachers nationally actually increased slightly over this timeframe. And the decline clearly starts before 2011, when state lawmakers limited union rights and reduced teacher compensation by requiring public employees to pay a larger share of their benefit costs. There is some evidence that the slide in the number of teachers in Wisconsin might be coming to an end, with a slight uptick in the number of teachers between the 2012 and 2013 school years.
As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, we should thank the teachers working in Wisconsin public schools. We should also recognize that the decline in the number of teachers raises a red flag about the quality of the education Wisconsin students are receiving.