A Wisconsin teacher who’s been honored nationally sees plenty of challenges as budgets shrink. Leah Lechleiter-Luke, Wisconsin’s Teacher of the Year and Mauston High School language teacher, says her small rural district is facing the same sorts of fiscal challenges as districts across the state. With about 120 full time teaching staff, six to eight are currently facing layoffs. “To lose that percentage . . . is devastating,” says Lechleiter-Luke. Lechleiter-Luke says the Mauston School District is in its third year of $500,000 budget cuts, and up until now, teacher cuts have been made by not replacing retirees.
Those potential layoffs include one Lechleiter-Luke calls “a hometown hero,” a product of Mauston schools who played football for the Badgers and returned to teach in the district. She says staffing cuts mean larger class sizes, and fewer teachers to work with students in class and in extracurricular activities. “How can we increase our test scores, when we’re increasing our classes sizes and reducing our staffing?” Lechleiter-Luke, who recently returned from Washington, D.C. for Teacher of the Year honors, says a bill from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin may provide some federal money to retain teachers across the country.
Lechleiter-Luke says she doesn’t have a solution to Wisconsin’s school funding formula, which is widely considering to be in need of revision as more and more districts fact financial crisis. “I don’t do math too well, being and English and Spanish teacher, that’s not my forte’. But certainly we all know that we need to look at this differently, so I guess I would push this back on our legislature.”
Bob Hague interview (9:50 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague interview (9:50 MP3)