As fall classes get underway, advocates for children are sounding an alarm over the situation facing public schools in the state.
A report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families is critical of the impact state budget cuts have had on education policies. Council research director Jon Peacock says that “as the state has been cutting funding for schools…that’s resulting in larger class sizes and also a sharp reduction in experience for teachers.”
The report argues that spending on schools declined in Wisconsin, during a period where the national average was increased. While the state does continue to spend more on per pupil spending than the national average, the state fell from 13th highest among state to 21st between 2005 and 2013.
Peacock says the number of experienced teachers in classrooms has also seen a large drop in the past five years, after a wave of retirements following the passage of Act 10 – legislation that restricted collective bargaining for many public sector unions. Prior to the law taking effect, Peacock says about 60 percent of schools had teachers with average experience level of at least 15 years in the classroom. Now, only about 40 percent of schools hit that threshold.
The number of teachers working in Wisconsin schools also fell by almost 3,000 between 2005 and 2013, which Peacock says means more crowded classrooms and less individualized attention for students.
The report concludes that “if lawmakers continue to prioritize tax cuts above public schools, students in Wisconsin public schools will continue to have increasingly crowded classrooms and fewer experienced teachers.”