In school districts across America, there is a severe shortage of high school teachers certified to teach STEM courses in mathematics, physics, chemistry metal fabrication, welding, digital electronics, automotive repair & diagnostics, computer programming, and pre-engineering, (Project Lead the Way). All areas of Advanced Placement teachers and special education teachers are also in short supply. Certified teachers in these areas are heavily recruited by every state in America.
For teachers, the differences in pursuing a career in Minnesota versus Wisconsin could not be more stark. Act 10 has reduced teacher career earning potential to the lowest in the Midwest. While starting teacher salaries in Walker's Wisconsin are comparable to nearby states, within five years, the average Wisconsin teacher earns the lowest salary in the Midwest, with the salary differential increasing with each year of experience. Little wonder that the rate of teachers leaving the profession or just leaving Walker's Wisconsin escalates dramatically as teachers reach their peak productivity 5-15 years into their professional career. Prior to Act 10, teachers with 10-20 years of experience formed the backbone of most school districts in Wisconsin, providing excellent instruction in all areas, especially math, science, technical education, and Advanced Placement courses.
Since Act 10, far fewer teachers are able to afford to remain in the teaching profession that now offers no salary growth, and significantly below market salaries in comparison to all of the states bordering Wisconsin and the entire Midwest. Teachers are increasingly fleeing the comparatively low teaching salaries and the often crushing workload brought on by the overcrowded classrooms that have resulted from nearly 3 billion dollars in cumulative cuts to public education by Governor Walker since 2010. Increasingly, states bordering Wisconsin are realizing that there is an excellent pool of experienced Wisconsin teachers looking for another state to continue their career, a state (like Minnesota with it's vibrant economy and pro-public education Governor & Legislature) where teachers are respected, welcomed, and compensated as professionals to keep them solidly in the middle class.
To illustrate the career earnings differences between Walker's Wisconsin and Minnesota, we decided to compare teachers' earning potential in two economically similar school districts. We chose to compare two outer-ring suburban school districts proximate to the largest metropolitan area of each state. The districts have similar student composition, community demographics, and per pupil educational expenditures. The districts are the New Berlin School District in Wisconsin and Independent School District 196 in Minnesota. Though ISD 196 is larger in size than New Berlin, economically and demographically these districts are nearly mirror images of each other.
Following are the salary comparisons at key points of a teacher's career:
District ISD 196 (MN) New Berlin (WI)
Starting Salary 2015-16 $38,894 $33, 546
Salary after 5 years $52,011 $36,311
Salary after 10 years $81,565 $40.090
Salary after 15 years $101,843 $44,263
Salary after 20 years $112,443 $48,870
Salary after 25 years $124,146 $53,957
Salary after 30 years $137,067 $59,573
Salary after 35 years $151,333 $65,773
Salary after 40 years $167,084 $72,619
Cumulative Career Salary Difference (40 year career) At least $2,355, 982 This is MORE than DOUBLE the career earnings of the same teacher in Walker's Wisconsin.
Reviewing both district's websites, we found that both place a high value on providing a quality education for every student. Teachers working in Minnesota ISD 196 will earn far more in career compensation than will the same teacher teaching in New Berlin. Nearly all districts in Minnesota (and the rest of America) have a fair and objective salary schedule where every teacher has the opportunity to earn the maximum salary. New Berlin ditched it's negotiated salary schedule after Governor Walker eliminated collective bargaining in 2011. In 2014-15, the starting salary for a New Berlin teacher was $32,597. We have been unable to determine the starting salary in 2015-16, so we used the average starting salaryof $33,546 for a Wisconsin teacher in our comparison.
Prior to Governor Walker's election in 2010, Wisconsin was one of the best states in America to live and teach. Even though Wisconsin teachers were routinely demeaned and attacked by right wing conservatives for years prior to Governor Walker's election, while emotionally hurtful, those attacks remained in the political arena and did not directly affect teachers' lives, livelihoods, and career potential as educators. Prior to the election of Governor Walker, Wisconsin teacher compensation was at about the median for America.
When Wisconsin voters elected Scott Walker as Governor in 2010, everything changed for teachers in Wisconsin. Vicious attacks on educators escalated to crescendo level, with the singular goal to harm teachers by destroying their lives, livelihoods, and future earnings as educators in Wisconsin. Neighboring state Minnesota elected Governor Mark Dayton in 2010. Dayton was a strong supporter of public education as the driver of the economic engine that would propel the Minnesota economy out of the recession. Rather than demonizing teachers like Wisconsin's Governor Walker, Minnesota Governor Dayton was supportive of teachers and public education in both words and funding for public schools.
Since 2010, Wisconsin and Minnesota have been polar opposites in both education funding and economic success. Walker's Wisconsin is the worst state in America for the middle class with a nearly 6% loss in the number of middle class residents, while Minnesota has an expanding middle class due to wage increases brought on by widespread prosperity from Governor Dayton's investment in the K12 public education system.
Here's how we calculated the salary comparison estimates:
- Both district's starting salary is based on a BA/BS degree.
- Common to most school districts in America outside of Walker's Wisconsin, ISD 196 has a career salary schedule for teachers. (The impact of BILLIONS of dollars in cumulative funding cuts to K12 schools in Walker's Wisconsin has resulted in many school districts, including New Berlin, eliminating fair and objective career salary schedules). The collectively bargained salary schedule for ISD 196 is a 13 step, 7 lane schedule. Theoretically a teacher working in ISD 196 could reach maximum earnings after 13 years of employment. For this calculation, however, we assumed a more common 15 year period to reach the schedule maximum.
- While some school districts in Walker's Wisconsin have salary schedules, most districts, like New Berlin, have no salary schedule. Teachers working in districts without a salary schedule often see their salary increase only a few thousand dollars beyond their starting salary plus a cost of living increase during their career. Teachers working in New Berlin have reported that the district gives occasional $1,000-$2,000 "merit" bonuses to reward and retain teachers. Sometimes these bonuses are "one-time" bonuses, sometimes they are base building. Teachers in New Berlin and all school districts without a defined salary schedule have no way of knowing what their salary will be in future years.
- For ISD 196, and most school districts across America, teachers earn a salary increase for each year of experience and/or 15 additional college credits. In doing our calculations, we assumed that our teacher moved to the BS+15 lane in his 2nd year of teaching where he remained until his 5th year of teaching. At the beginning of his 5th year of teaching, he moved to the BS+30 lane as he had completed 15 additional credits on his way to his Master's degree in Mathematics. He moved to the Master's lane at the beginning of his 6th year of teaching after earning the Master's degree during the summer. He remained in the Master's lane for 2 years until earning 15 graduate credits and moving to the MA+15 lane at the beginning of his 8th year of teaching. He remained at the MA+15 lane for 2 more years, until moving to the MA+30 lane at the beginning of his 10th year of teaching, where he remained until his 13th year of teaching when he reached the highest cell in the salary schedule.
- The New Berlin teacher did not take any additional college credits his entire career as neither New Berlin nor Walker's Wisconsin require or appreciate teachers with additional college credits beyond a Bachelor degree. Once one of the states with a high percentage of K12 teachers with advanced degrees, Walker's Wisconsin has seen one of the greatest declines in America of the number of K12 teachers with advanced degrees. Since Governor Walker's election in 2010, students in Wisconsin are far more likely to be taught by a teacher with the minimum qualifications to earn a teaching license and only a few years of experience.
- For both teachers, we assumed a 2% Consumer Price Index yearly salary increase. For the New Berlin teacher, this CPI increase is multiplied by the base salary each year. For the ISD 196, the entire salary schedule advances by the 2% increase.
- As does nearly every teacher in America outside Walker's Wisconsin, the teacher in ISD 196 earns the 2% CPI increase AND a salary increase for an additional year of experience until he reaches the highest cell on the salary schedule.
- Though we chose to apply a 2% CPI increase to both teachers, the 2% CPI for the Minnesota teacher is likely lower than the actual increases that teachers in Minnesota are earning. In the past 2 years, most teachers in Minnesota have seen pay increases in the 3% range due to Minnesota's budgeting priority on funding public education and rewarding and retaining excellent teachers. The 2% CPI salary increase for the New Berlin teacher is likely optimistic considering the cumulative BILLIONS of dollars in funding cuts to K12 public education and the tens of millions of dollars of additional cuts to public school aid to fund largely unaccountable private and voucher schools across Walker's Wisconsin.
Some education experts suggest that if the current massive K12 funding cuts and diversion of tax dollars to private and voucher schools accelerates at the pace of the past 5 years, within a decade every public school system in Wisconsin will be bankrupt and forced to dissolve. Prior to bankruptcy, public school districts across Wisconsin will be slashing teacher salaries and benefits in order to survive. Current class sizes of 30+ will escalate to 40-50 or more as more public school funding is diverted to private and voucher schools across Wisconsin.