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Number of Wisconsin teachers, school staff increases in 2013; three-year decline halted

MADISON—The number of Wisconsin public school teachers rose modestly in 2013 from 59,384 to 59,540, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) said today. This ended a three-year decline in teaching positions. Despite the 2013 increase, teacher numbers declined 2.1% during 2011-13, following a drop of 2.6% during 2009-11. These are some of the important findings in WISTAX’s new report, “Post Act 10 School Staffing.” WISTAX is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to public policy research and citizen education.

Most school districts added teachers in 2013, according to WISTAX researchers who relied on staffing statistics from the state Department of Public Instruction. The staff increases were partly due to Madison’s new four-year-old kindergarten program—Madison added 150 teachers (7.0%). Two of its neighbors, Verona (20 or 5.3%) and McFarland (32 or 16.8%), also increased teacher numbers significantly. Of the state’s 30 most populous districts, 20 added teachers, including Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Appleton, Waukesha, Eau Claire, and Sheboygan.

However, in 2013, 205 districts reduced teaching staffs, with 96 cutting them by at least 2% in 2013. Nearly all of the 25 districts reducing staffs the most in percentage terms were small. Fifteen had fewer than 500 students; another six had fewer than 1,000; and another three had fewer than 1,700. The exception was Kenosha with over 22,000 students, where the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers fell by 178 (12.4%), following a reduction of 242 teachers (14.4%) the prior year, according to the WISTAX analysis.

The new figures are useful because of the uncertain effects of cuts in school revenue limits and state aid contained in the 2011-13 state budget. That budget reduced school revenue limits (the sum of state aid and property taxes) 5.5%. Act 10 was designed to lessen the impact by requiring public sector employees to pay half of their state retirement contribution and by removing benefits from collective bargaining. The latter allowed districts to change health plans, require higher copays and deductibles, and make other changes to benefits. These potential cost savings were meant to help districts minimize or avoid layoffs. Statewide, average teacher benefits fell from $27,665 in 2011 to $23,182 in 2012 and to $23,006 in 2013. However, some districts had contracts in place prior to the signing of Act 10, which limited or eliminated the savings.

The new WISTAX report also examined two years of staff changes since 2011. Of the state’s 424 school districts, 296 reduced teaching staffs, with 29 cutting by 10% or more and another 90 by at least 5%. A total of 128 districts added teachers, with 19 increasing staffs more than 5%. Four districts—McFarland, Geneva J4, Madison, and Independence—added at least 10% more teachers. By contrast, the number of teachers fell 15% or more in Kenosha, North Lakeland, Friess Lake, Dover #1, Washington, and Crivitz.

The first significant teacher reductions occurred after enactment of the 2009-11 state budget, which reduced state aid and slowed the growth of school revenue limits. The number of teachers fell 1.3% in both 2010 and 2011.

WISTAX researchers also examined changes in school staff, other than teachers. The number of administrators, pupil service personnel, and aides all rose slightly in 2013. Total school staff rose from 99,241 in 2012 to 99,265 this year.

A free copy of the most recent issue of The Wisconsin Taxpayer, which includes the report “Post Act 10 School Staffing,” is available by visiting; emailing; calling 608.241.9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave., Madison, WI 53704-5033.