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What has happened to education over the last seven years?

Seven years ago, Act 10 was passed as put forth by then newly elected Gov. Scott Walker to shore up a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

It did so much more than that.

The number of students choosing to teach as their profession had been decreasing across the United States for some years as well as Wisconsin, but this was a definite blow to the field of education.

More so than any other profession, education is the backbone of society. Parents want the best education for their children. The situation at this point is as bleak as at any time in my lifetime, which now spans nearly five decades in the field. As a teacher, then an administrator at different levels for the School District of La Crosse and then 10 years as the director of Educational Leadership at Viterbo University, I have witnessed first-hand the changes that education has undergone.

Student learning is the goal of all education. The classroom teacher is by far the biggest factor regarding student learning. The second most consequential person aligned to learning in schools is the school principal, but that is a distant second to the teacher. My point in this discussion is that if we want the best for our children, the best for our state and the best for the United States we need to have quality teachers in the classrooms. The problem since the enactment of Act 10 is that it did so much more than help eliminate a budget deficit, it drastically changed an essential component in every child’s lives.

Education is vital to the potential of each of our children, more so in the 21st century than previous generations. Previously the world was not as complicated as it is today. Today, the number of manual-only jobs is relatively limited. The vast majority of jobs today require a significant education. This certainly was not the case for my parent’s generation. The importance of education today is magnified by how complex our world has become.

What does that mean? It means that if we want the world to be kind to our children, we need to provide them with a good education. To obtain the best education we need the best and brightest among us as teachers. The problem is that we are not seeing a surge of young university students selecting the field of education as their profession. The question is, why aren’t students choosing to become teachers? We as a society need them. We need them at this time as much as ever.

So there is any number of reasons that young people are not choosing to teach as a career choice, and also why so many are leaving the profession after a few years.

First and foremost the reason many go into education — at least the reason I did, and any number of colleagues did — is that there is no better profession.

You go into the field of education to help our most precious resource — our children — become the best citizens they can be. It is your purpose as an educator. As a teacher, you are an idealist, and there is no better feeling than when you see the “proverbial light” go on in a student’s head. A great deal of patience is required, but every worthy teacher works incredibly hard trying to find ways to help students learn.

I look back on my life, and at times as a teacher, I probably neglected my children while working with someone’s child trying to find a way to ensure learning. So for many teachers, they leave there blood, sweat and tears in the classroom. Teachers don’t make a lot of money in comparison to many other professions, but for many of us our purpose — helping students learn — was a driving force, and because of it money was less of a factor.

Now to the point, why are fewer students choosing to teach as a career?

Well, there are several reasons, but one that came through loud and clear from Act 10 was that teachers not only didn’t deserve the benefits they were receiving, but they were also a reason for the state’s budget deficit. They didn’t deserve to have a union that would argue for their benefits, their salaries their job security. Teachers, the entire field of education was the reason for the deficit; their benefits were out of line. Every time taxes go up, especially property taxes, the field of education becomes the scapegoat for the average property taxpayer. I believe this is the single biggest factor as to why any number of young people are choosing not to become teachers. The profession has been bastardized by politicians for too long, and Act 10 was a devastating blow.

I hope that the damage is repairable. Education is too important for our children not to have some of our best and brightest in front of them. Too many people not in education think teaching is an easy job, with pretty nice hours and summers off. Educators work hard, preparing lesson plans on a daily basis, correcting papers, reading assignment papers, working outside of class time assisting students who need some additional insights and tending to any number of disciplinary issues that require meetings outside of the regular class time. There was seldom an evening that I didn’t sit down with a briefcase of papers to go over late at night so that students would have them back the next day. Also, many teachers put in extra hours searching for better ways to prepare a lesson, taking college credit at their own expense to become better at their trade. If I ever took a summer off, it was to work at another job to make ends meet. The hours are long, and today there are many more children who have behavioral issues that are significant. Solutions are difficult to find.

As a profession, education (teachers) need society’s support. Education needs assistance with raising the next generation of children. Education is for the common Good. If all of our children are to grow up to be good citizens and well-educated children, then all of us will benefit. Education needs all of us working together. Support our teachers and encourage young people to become teachers. It does “Take a Village to Raise a Child.” Let’s strive to rebuild the state of Wisconsin’s attitude toward teachers.


(19) comments


The public schools are bloated, inefficient, turn in very mixed results, propagate political agendas better left to other venues (like home) and are very very expensive.

It is the taxpayer's right to question what goes on at these schools, it is the taxpayers children who attend and the taxpayer who pays the bill.

The teachers' union made the mistake of believing it was untouchable as it poured millions of lobbying dollars on all levels of political leadership. The corruption and pay-to-play tactics needed to be cleaned up. Mr B laments "the bastardization of education by politicians" yet it was the teachers union that wrote that lesson plan and paid off "their" politicians. Be reminded, the union disintegrated because teachers were given the choice to join, or not, and voted with their feet.

And then there is UW. At 50,000 employees in Madison alone, it is but another self-perpetuating financial black hole.


Jim brings up some valid points but he offers no real solutions. Teachers, historically at the public school level have enjoyed above average pay and extraordinarily high benefits packages. When the folks look at their property tax bills school taxes are the largest consumer of those tax dollars, hence the rush to contain those costs. Even with ACT10 public school educators enjoy bargain basement insurance rates. But the real fly in the ointment is their retirement benefits including the lifetime health insurance and pensions starting at the unrealistic age of 55 years old. So you work for 30 years and can very well live for another 30 years all the while receiving very nice pensions.Show me where this is common in the private sector. Good educators are extremely valuable but unfortunately some, not all, and their crooked union and political involvement has left a very nasty taste in the mouths of taxpayers who are forced to work well into their late 60’s to retire.
Lastly, it doesn’t take a village to raise a child. Yours is nothing but a thinly veiled political ad.


I dare billr to reveal where around here where educators get lifetime health insurance fully or partially paid by the taxpayer. I guarantee that no one gets fully or partially paid health insurance their whole life, no matter when they retire. At age 65 they must go on medicare for health insurance. Unless you are talking about a school superintendent who negotiated that with the school board. If you retire at age 55 you do not get a full pension, you get a partial pension. You are penalized for leaving early depending on how many years you have taught. Those are the facts billr. I have met many in the private sector who did quite well in their jobs and were rewarded handsomely for their years of service with greater pensions and benefits than those of educators. Lastly, you say it doesn't take a village to raise a child. True enough, but if you want a child to be a good citizen to contribute to society and in many different ways, it takes many good people in his/her life to help make that happen. And often educators are some of those good people. Hope you are too.


Let me get this are complaining because teachers cannot retire at 55 with full pension?

Are you out of touch often?


no redwall, let me explain. I was merely pointing out the facts to billr who mistakenly wrote teachers get lifetime health insurance and big pension at age 55. Read it again. No where did i say they should get it. just pointing out the facts. something I know you are not used to.


Yes, after Act 10, all the tie-in contracts were discovered wherein the corrupt school district administrators (including some locally) were funding the teachers health insurance through the corrupt teachers' union, overpaying insurance premiums, and it was costing the taxpayers millions statewide. In turn, the overpayment for insurance was funding the political action arm of the union. So when Mr B complains about politicians messing with education, remember the union wrote that lesson plan.

Thank you Scott Walker.


you haven't a clue what you are talking about. "funding the teachers health insurance through the teachers' union. That doesn't even make sense. "Over paying insurance premiums" is not true. Don't know where you get these crazy accusations, must be from the GOP. The political arm of the union was funded through union dues, just like all unions do. You are way off your rocker.


Actually, the matter was well documented even in the Fibune rag, err, newspaper. School districts were sourcing insurance for teachers from the captive insurance company run by the WI teachers union. This fraud was as I recall a provision of the union contracts these sleepy school administrators had agreed to. Regardless, the result was that school districts (taxpayers) overpaid insurance premiums by millions $ statewide.

When the teachers union tanked, the corruption came to light.

Many thanks to Scott Walker.

Buggs Raplin

But to quote George W. Bush, "Is our kids learning?" Based on various testing appraisals, they are not. So let's pour more money into the schools. Makes sense to a liberal, but then that is the essence of liberalism, irrationality.


I almost fell asleep but was rejuvenated by the paragraph beginning "Now to the point..."

My feeling is that teaching is one of the greatest professions there is. I would like to see teachers paid more and receive higher benefits. And Mr. B is a class guy.

However, the education industry long ago went off the rails. The uncountable hundreds of millions spent on education has yielded unsatisfactory results.

Education has become prey to politicians because teachers' unions and unaccountable administrators (and yes some teachers) have led it there. Much of what teachers teach is nothing but a gratuitous swipe at practical knowledge needed to succeed.

The waste of taxpayer money supporting bloated administration (UW take a bow) leaves taxpayers with a sore spot and cynical about what educators actually do.


"However, the education industry long ago went off the rails. The uncountable hundreds of millions spent on education has yielded unsatisfactory results." Well put redwall, and you lead as " the prime example of unsatisfactory results" category. As much as teachers can try and try to educate the young, sometimes you just can't fix stupid and end up with someone like redwall. Taking a "gratuitous" swipe at what teachers teach , redwall reveals his distaste of learning while pretending to know it all. Education has become prey to politicians, namely the GOP, because they know their base doesn't like science or history or facts. Education is the enemy to those who want to stir up hate, bigotry, and fake news in order to maintain their power over the ignorant. So far it looks like they've done a pretty successful job.


Nasty and bitter little liberal, aren't you.


nasty and a bitter angry tea bagger aren't you.


As I said above, I hold teachers in the highest regard.

As for my distaste of learning, I have two college degrees and multiple achievements in my profession...why, I could be a teacher! If so, I would do so without paying union dues and not give it a second thought.

P.S. So sorry, I suppose reality is tough for you to deal with. The demise of WEA is permanent, no matter what Gov Walkers future may hold.


As a person who spent 30+ years in the classroom, I couldn't agree more with this article. Walker and the Republican Party destroyed teaching as a profession in this state. They scapegoated teachers (and to some extent all public employees) as the cause of Wisconsin's fiscal problems. I could go on, but make sure you vote against all Republicans in the next election. They are ruining our state and our country.


I do agree completely. Teachers deserve to be recognized as critically important assets to society. Act 10 was a blow to the profession in many ways and continues to be. The politicians who passed the Act 10 law exempted themselves from any cut back in pay and benefits. Yet they are only part time. Hopefully this fall we get new leadership in Madison, one that will help restore the rights of teachers and all workers.


Sure, everyone knows you cant be a good teacher unless you are a good union activist AND a good liberal.


have no idea where you come up with that. Again you are reading things that aren't there. No one said anything about being liberal. You always have to cast any argument into the either/ or categories of politics. You say teachers deserve higher regard, but you don't really mean it. You are just pi$$ed because the teachers unions don't share your loyalty to the GOP. Teachers settled for lower pay in exchange for better fringe benefits for many years. Now the GOP has taken many of those fringes away and curtailed their bargaining power for wages. Doesn't sound like a fair way to treat those who you hold in "high regard."


hahahahh. I didnt write the article. The loyalty of the teachers union couldnt be more irrelevant or meaningless. Thats not an opinion.

Have a nice day, maybe there is a group session in Cameron Park for you to wander off to.

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