Good news: School staffing numbers stabilized

A FEW YEARS AGO, the public release of an annual set of numbers about school staffing levels in Wisconsin wouldn’t have caused much of a ripple.

The story, if there was one, probably would’ve been brief and not at all prominent in the newspaper.

Not so in our post-Act 10 world, when every hiring, firing or retirement of a public sector employee somehow takes on new meaning.

Late last week, the State Journal published a story by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism about staffing numbers for the 2012- 13 school year, and the news was played on the front page, above the fold.

Part of the reason why the current year-to-year staffing comparison would not have received much interest a few years ago is because of the content of the report: There really wasn’t much change.

But now, “not much change” becomes significant news when contrasted with the dire predictions of massive negative change in school staffing numbers after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed Act 10 in 2011.

The state budget approved a few months after Act 10 included a massive cut to state funding for K-12 education in Wisconsin. On the other hand, Act 10 opened the door for school districts and other public entities to recoup much of the funding cuts by, among other things, having employees contribute to their health insurance and retirement plans.

Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans touted these new “tools” as a means of counter-balancing the cut in state funds. Walker opponents derided the so-called tools as simply a back-door pay cut for public sector workers.

Whatever one’s view of Act 10 and its intentions, based on the last week’s report from the state Department of Public Instruction, the tools, indeed, seem to have been used effectively by school districts around Wisconsin.

While the numbers vary from district to district, overall K-12 staffing was up a tiny bit in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12. That’s a stark contrast to what union leaders, teachers and other Walker foes predicted a year ago. Many warned that after significant staffing reductions in the first year of Act 10 and the state budget, the bottom would really fall out in Year 2.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. In fact, in Madison last year 150 teachers were added and 290 new employees overall.

Are times still tight, even squeaky tight, for many K-12 school districts? Yes. But we’re glad to see school staffing levels have stabilized. — Wisconsin State Journal, July 1

At issue:
School staffing numbers level
Bottom line:
No negative Act 10 impact

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