The LaCrosse Tribune reported today on the significant rise in retirements from school districts in the local area brought about by the budget battles:
“It’s the uncomfortable climate for public employees,” said Steve Salerno, an associate superintendent in the La Crosse district. “They want to leave before anything else changes. … Many people who weren’t ready to retire are retiring early.”
The retirements span the area:
- Sixty teachers are retiring in La Crosse, where all but five positions will be filled. The exodus means the district won’t have to consider layoffs to shoulder budget cuts, Salerno said. The senior teachers have a lot to offer students, he said, but they “have to think about themselves for the first time.”
- Eleven teachers will retire in West Salem, a district where three or four teachers retire in a typical year. The district plans to fill each position. But, Superintendent Troy Gunderson said, new staff doesn’t have the experience veteran educators have. He compares it to open heart surgery: “You want someone who’s done a few, not someone who is new or just getting started.”
- The Holmen School District has 28 staff members retiring, which is double the average. “We’re loosing a lot of years of experience,” District Administrator Dale Carlson said. “It’s a hard transition. In many ways they’re hard to replace.” The district plans to replace the outgoing teachers with qualified staff. “We always do,” Carlson said. “It’s part of the process. We aren’t the only business that goes through transition … hiring new staff is part of the natural process.”
This enormous loss in experience should be disconcerting to anyone who doesn't think a teacher is just a teacher is just a teacher.
- Eighteen teachers have turned in retirement notices in the Onalaska School District. That’s twice the normal amount. Superintendent John Burnett said the hard part for the district will be the competitive market for teachers. “Every district in the area is looking,” he said. “We have to start early.” New hires can put a little ease on districts because they are cheaper, though they won’t have a significant impact on the budget as a whole, Burnett said.
While this could be seen as improving the job market for younger teachers and new graduates with teaching degrees, the competitive benefits to them may be short-lived. With the Governor's push to significantly expand charter schools, and also eliminate the requirement that charter school teachers possess teaching degrees, there will be more job competition in the private school market. This will likely encourage more private school teachers to jump into the competition for relatively better paying public school jobs.