Governor Scott Walker this week suggested that Wisconsin teachers should be paid like NFL free agents, a comment that drew a flurry of penalty flags from Democratic lawmakers and others.
The Republican governor also said Wisconsin is a more attractive place to be a public school teacher than neighboring Minnesota.
Walker made the comments Monday in an interview with the La Crosse Tribune, following one of the invitation only listening sessions that have become a signature of his administration in recent months.
“It’s about putting the best and the brightest in the classroom,” Walker told the newspaper. “If someone is an exceptional talent and wants to go into education, they can be rewarded for that.”
Asked whether incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.
“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”
Walker said school districts can pay either a fresh college graduate or a 25-year veteran based solely on performance.
“Why he would choose to compare that (teaching) to football players is absolutely beyond me,” said state Representative Sondy Pope (D-Mount Horeb). “It’s not even an apple or an orange, it’s a cow and a bumblebee. There’s no comparison to be made. It’s ridiculous.”
Wisconsin Education Association Council president Betsey Kipppers released a statement:
“The governor got the call wrong in suggesting our children’s futures are a game to be won or lost. Wisconsin students need stability, not a revolving door of teachers. He and his followers have gutted public school funding by $1 billion, leaving communities unable to attract qualified staff, safe schools and up-to-date materials for students. It’s time politicians wake up and take responsibility for the long-term damage they’ve done to our schools instead of blowing hot air. The answer to attracting and keeping caring, qualified educators in our schools is fair pay and professional respect.”
In the interview, Walker said he’d encourage a relative with a teaching degree to seek work in Wisconsin rather than Minnesota. “Minnesota’s doing so much better than Wisconsin right now, and it’s clearly because of Governor Walker and the Republican legislature and what they have done to this state,” Pope said.
“Rewarding teacher performance was the point, and good employers provide financial incentives based on performance, not just seniority,” said Tom Evenson, the governor’s Deputy Communications Director “That is what we can now do in Wisconsin after our reforms, to make sure we have the best and brightest teaching in our classrooms.”