Evers says teachers should have greater voice in school decisions

State Superintendent Tony Evers says he wants to reinvigorate the teaching profession by providing teachers with a greater voice in decision making processes.

“The issue of teachers is important, and a lot of it has to do with the way we treated the profession and portrayed the profession,” Evers said last week in a meeting with Sauk County Democrats, according to a report in the Baraboo News Republic. “We can fix that, and it’s free. Our politicians need to stop denigrating the profession.”

According to the report, Evers also said he was surprised that Governor Walker proposed a $650 million increase in state support for public schools as part of his 2017-19 state budget proposal. Evers had requested a $700 million increase in his state budget request.

“He called me a week before he delivered the budget and left a message saying, ‘You’re going to be surprised this year,’ and I was,” Evers said. “There’s all sorts of hooks there, I’m not going to sugar coat that, but we’re at a point where the trajectory is good.”

Evers is seeking a third term as state superintendent in Tuesday’s (February 21) primary election. Lowell Holtz and John Humphries, who are both advocates for expansion of private school vouchers, are challenging Evers. Holtz and Humphries have been involved in a controversy over reports that they have discussed schemes whereby one would drop out of the race in exchange for a high-paying taxpayer-funded government job after the election, should the other challenger win. The general election is April 4.

Read more about Evers’ meeting with Sauk County Democrats in the Baraboo News Republic:

State’s top educator says public support on the rise

Wisconsin’s top education official told Sauk County Democrats on Thursday that a $650 million increase in state support for public education included in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal caught him by surprise.

Read an opinion piece about the election by John Nichols in the Capital Times:

John Nichols: Tony Evers vs. the DeVos candidates

When Donald Trump nominated billionaire campaign donor Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education, advocates for public education were aghast. Diane Ravitch, the education historian who served as George Herbert Walker Bush’s assistant secretary of education, argued: “The previous Republican administrations did not threaten the very existence of public education and teachers unions.

Why are teachers calling it quits?

Sergio Gonzalez (LinkedIn photo)

Sergio Gonzalez (LinkedIn photo)

For some, it’s the pay. For others it’s the over-emphasis on testing and the inability to focus on true learning. But a common thread among those who leave the teaching profession is they feel disrespected and find that teaching has become a burden rather than a joy.

NPR this week notes that 8 percent of teachers quit every year and quotes the Learning Policy Institute saying the teaching force is “a leaky bucket, losing hundreds of thousands of teachers each year — the majority of them before retirement age.”

In an article titled “What are the main reasons teachers call it quits?” NPR covers the gamut, but the bottom line is that those teachers who quit are typically disillusioned by the over-emphasis on test results, the intrusion of politics into their classrooms, low pay, inadequate resources, and the general lack of respect and support they receive as professionals.

The article quotes former teachers from Texas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Sergio Gonzalez, who taught in Madison’s first dual-language program before leaving the profession, said his job was rewarding but draining.

Yet he says he didn’t even consider another career until Governor Scott Walker pushed through Act 10, which stripped educators of a key role in the decision-making process. As the NPR article puts it, the law “created a toxic political climate and left many educators feeling alienated.”

“I knew that if I stuck around I was going to get bitter, and I was not going to be a good teacher,” Gonzalez says. “But I can’t emphasize enough how, ever since I was a kid, my goal was to be a public school teacher. And that opportunity seemed to be taken away from me.”

Read the entire NPR article:

What Are The Main Reasons Teachers Call It Quits?

Enlarge this image For Ross Roberts, it was a lack of resources that drove him from the classroom. For Danielle Painton, it was too much emphasis on testing. For Sergio Gonzalez, it was a nasty political environment. Welcome to the U.S.

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Why are teachers calling it quits?

Sergio Gonzalez didn’t even consider another career until Governor Scott Walker pushed through Act 10, a law that left educators feeling alienated.

New WEAC President wants to raise level of respect for the education professions


Eau Claire teacher Ron Martin, who takes over as WEAC President on Monday, feels strongly that we must restore respect to the education professions and create an environment that makes young people want to become educators.

“We have to figure out ways to encourage people to go in the profession and bring people back to what is an admirable profession,” Martin said in an interview this week with WISC News. He said it’s also important to lift up school support staff – paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries, cooks and others – who are an extremely valuable part to everyday school life.

Martin, a social studies teacher and former president of the Eau Claire Association of Educators, has been an educator for more than 20 years. He succeeds Racine teacher Betsy Kippers, who is retiring. Marshfield High School English teacher Peggy Wirtz-Olsen will take over Monday as WEAC Vice President, a position held by Martin for the last three years.

Martin is a longtime student council advisor for Eau Claire’s South Middle School and was the Altoona High School head volleyball coach for more than a decade as well an advisor for the Where Everybody Belongs orientation program for sixth-graders.

He has directed faith-based youth programs and ministries was a member of the Board of Directors for the Greater Eau Claire United Way. He has been the president of the Eau Claire Patriotic Council for over a decade, spearheading Memorial Day celebrations and more in the area.

When he was elected WEAC President at the WEAC Representative Assembly this spring, Martin told delegates he is honored to be elected WEAC President.

“Like you I believe wholeheartedly in the profession and what we do,” he said. “I believe in our union and the power we have to transform public education and to continue to serve as its guardians.

“I truly believe our organization will be a new exciting organization that represents the voices of tens of thousands of educators all across this state. We will be known all over this state as the premiere association of educators who advocate for a diverse democratic society and quality public education. We will be known by educators as the union that promotes and advances professional practice, personal growth, as well as the economic welfare and rights of our members.”

Read the entire WISC News article:

WEAC head learns some lessons in Mauston

It’s no secret that Wisconsin, like many states in the nation, is facing a teacher shortage. Ron Martin, the Eau Claire Middle School teacher set to take over as the president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) Aug. 1, wants to help – and he received some inspiration from a Juneau County teacher.

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Study confirms that teaching experience increases teacher effectiveness

A new analysis of research by the Learning Policy Institute verifies what many educators have long known: teaching experience is associated with student achievement gains.

Based on a review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years, the authors find that as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains in effectiveness are in the first few years of teaching, this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.

Other findings include:

  • Experienced teachers have a positive impact on the performance of their peers.
  • As teachers gain experience, their students are more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.
  • Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.
  • More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues, their students, and to the school as a whole.

The report – titled “Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research” – has important implications for policymakers who are seeking to improve learning and close achievement gaps. Its findings highlight the value of retaining experienced teachers and offer strategies to improve their effectiveness.

The report also raises equity concerns, since inexperienced teachers tend to be highly concentrated in underserved schools serving high-need students. Correcting this problem is a goal of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which requires districts and states to monitor and address teacher equity gaps, including the distribution of effective and experienced teachers.

The findings aren’t surprising to Wisconsin educators, who see the impacts of the revolving door of teaching in our state. The findings are also supported by other research, including the following:

Do supportive professional environments promote teacher development? (PDF)
New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter (Web)

Taken together, there are quite a few policy implications regarding teacher professionalism, working conditions, teacher retention, and teacher professional development. Specifically, the research makes the case that policymakers should support policies and investments that advance the ongoing development and professional growth of an experienced teaching workforce, and increase the retention of experienced and effective teachers.

Visit WEAC’s Professional Resources Page for at-your-fingertips support to build the teaching professions.

WEAC partners with the Great Lakes Center to share and provide timely, academically sound reports and briefs on selected education-related practices, policies and publications. WEAC President Betsy Kippers sits on the Great Lakes Board of Directors and passes along this report from the Learning Policy Institute on teaching experience and teacher effectiveness.

Harvard grad’s commencement speech lauds education, lifts spirits and goes viral

Donovan Livingston, a master’s of education graduate at Harvard University, used spoken-word poetry to express his passion for teaching and learning in this powerful commencement address at Harvard.

WEAC President-Elect Ron Martin said, “Wow! I loved Donovan’s speech and I was definitely moved to tears by his speech. If you haven’t watched it yet, you need to!”

Livingston concluded by expressing his passion for unleashing students’ potential through education:

“At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.

“Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.”

Survey: Number of future teachers reaches all-time low


Click image to enlarge

From NEA Today

In a 2016 national survey of college freshmen, the number of students who say they will major in education has reached its lowest point in 45 years. Just 4.2 percent intend to major in education—a typical first step to becoming a teacher—compared to 11 percent in 2000; 10 percent in 1990; and 11 percent in 1971, according to data gathered by the UCLA’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program.

Take those numbers and add them to the poor rates of teacher retention in many public schools, and it equals a serious problem for students who all deserve a “caring, qualified and committed educator,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García.

Read more:

Survey: Number of Future Teachers Reaches All-time Low – NEA Today

When Theresa Montaño first joined the faculty at Cal State Northridge, as a professor of bilingual education, her classes were packed with future teachers. “I’d have to turn students away,” she said. Now, a little more than a decade later, says Montaño, “I’m actually having a hard time enrolling students in my undergrad education classes.

Wisconsin drops to 39th in number of public employees per capita

From the Wisconsin Budget Project

PublicEmployeesThe number of public employees in Wisconsin has fallen over time, and current levels of public employment are significantly lower than they were a decade ago, according to a Wisconsin Budget Project analysis of newly-released figures.

Wisconsin has 4.4% fewer state and local government employees per capita than the national average. Wisconsin ranks 39th in the number of government workers per population.

“It might surprise some people to know that only 11 other states had a leaner public sector than Wisconsin, but we’ve had fewer government workers per population than the national average for at least two decades now,” said Tamarine Cornelius, who conducted the analysis.

Having fewer government employees means that Wisconsin governments spend less on public payrolls. For each person that lived in the state, Wisconsin spent 7.1% less than the national average on public payrolls.

Another reason public payroll costs in Wisconsin are low is that public employees in Wisconsin earn less than the national average. The payroll per employee in Wisconsin was 2.9% below the national average.

Most public employees work in schools, according to the analysis. Six out of ten government employees work in education, mostly in K-12 schools. A smaller number work in higher education. Other major work areas for public employees include health and human services, police and fire, corrections, and transportation.

“Public employees in Wisconsin teach our children, repair our transportation network, and keep our communities safe – all activities that help make Wisconsin a good place to do business and raise families,” said Cornelius. “We need to make sure we have enough public employees to have the kind of efficient, effective public sector that can improve the state’s economic competitiveness as well as the quality of life for Wisconsin families.”

The Wisconsin Budget Project’s analysis is based on state and local government employment figures collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, which publishes public employment levels for March of each year. The Census Bureau recently released government employment figures for March 2014.

The Wisconsin Budget Project, an initiative of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, is an independent Madison-based research group that focuses on tax and budget policy.

The full analysis is available on the Wisconsin Budget Project website.

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American teachers underpaid, work long hours, new comparison finds

A new analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development finds that teachers in the United States are underpaid compared to workers with similar education levels, and that they work longer hours than teachers in almost every other country surveyed.

The Huffington Post provides this summary of the OECD report:

“American public school teachers are underpaid compared to workers in the U.S. with similar education levels, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found. Elementary school teachers in the U.S. make 67 percent of what college-educated workers in other professions earn. High school teachers earn 71 percent of what other college-educated workers make.

“Yet even though American teachers make comparatively less money, all evidence points to the fact that they work their butts off. The OECD found that American teachers spend more time in the classroom than teachers in almost every other surveyed country.”

Read more:

More Proof That American Teachers Are Underpaid And Deserve More Respect

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MTEA members celebrate Labor Day 2015

The MTEA Labor Day contingent leaves Zeidler Park led by the Riverside drum line (Photo credit: Joe Brusky).

The MTEA Labor Day contingent leaves Zeidler Park led by the Riverside drum line (All photos taken by Joe Brusky).


Hundreds of MTEA members, led by the Riverside University High School drum line, marched alongside MPS parents, community supporters, and members of other Milwaukee unions in this morning’s Labor Day march. Members handed out “no takeover” buttons and invited workers from other unions to join our city-wide Walk In for Public Schools events on Friday, September 18.

MTEA members sign up participants for the upcoming September 18th MPS "Walk In for Public Schools" day of action.

MTEA members sign up participants for the upcoming September 18th MPS “Walk In for Public Schools” day of action.


Leading Labor Day chants.

Leading Labor Day chants.


Milwaukee educators approach the Summerfest grounds.

Milwaukee educators approach the Summerfest grounds.


MTEA member Michelle Mackey marches holding a Stop the MPS Takeover sign.

MTEA member Michelle Mackey marches holding a Stop the MPS Takeover sign.


A young supporter marches with Milwaukee educators.

A young supporter marches with Milwaukee educators.


Marching to Summerfest grounds with downtown Milwaukee in the background.

Marching to Summerfest grounds with downtown Milwaukee in the background.


Milwaukee residents lined the street as marchers arrived at the Summerfest grounds for LaborFest.

Milwaukee residents lined the street as marchers arrived at the Summerfest grounds for LaborFest.


Thanks to all of the members and supporters who came out to celebrate today! Happy Labor Day to all.

Riverside University High School Drum Line Leads MTEA Labor Day March from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Help me be there for the kids, young teacher asks Milwaukee School Board

Allison Watson wants to stay in MPS because she loves her students, but it’s getting harder and harder for exceptional educators like her to do so. In a very personal and emotional testimony, she asked the Milwaukee School Board to fund the salary schedule they agreed to last year.

“Having a competitive compensation plan is critical to recruiting and retaining great teachers for our students,” she told the board.

“I am an educator but I am also a person that needs to make my rent, car payments, grad school loans, cable and internet payments, insurance, credit card bills, and heat and gas bills monthly.  I never thought I would be 30 years old and barely making ends meet; going to my parent’s house to have them buy me groceries.

“Without a competitive compensation plan, I will never be able to buy a house, pay for a wedding or be able to afford to have children.  But forget the larger purchases for a moment and think about the impact on my classroom.  I will definitely not be able to supplement the lack of supplies given to my students and my classroom.  I won’t be able to buy the glue that’s never provided or the crayons or construction paper.  I will not be able to buy more books or play dough or toys; color ink for my personal printer that I keep at school to make new centers or even simple things like cleaning supplies and wet wipes. I won’t be able to buy coats for my students that don’t have them or socks for kids when it’s snowing.”

Allison said she could be paid far more working in the private sector but, “I don’t want to do that.  It’s not where my heart lies.  I belong in a classroom and I am an exceptional educator.  My kids and their families deserve to keep exceptional educators.”

She concluded: “I really hope that you will prioritize our students by creating a budget that will attract and retain great teachers. I am actively looking for opportunities in other districts and so are many of your new teachers.  We can see the writing on the wall and for us; if you don’t fund the salary schedule, MPS is a dead end in terms of career advancement.  There are two reasons I am still with MPS and haven’t accepted another position.  I am fiercely loyal to my kids and their families and because an MTEA member texts me every week to see how I am doing and make sure I am OK.  Don’t let me disappoint her, don’t let me disappoint my kids.  Give me a reason to stay and be as fiercely loyal to MPS as I am to my students, their families and the MTEA.”

Watch Allison’s testimony: