Report: Wisconsin’s Education Reforms Saved Money, Did No Harm

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty has released a new report titled “The Impact of Act 10 On Wisconsin’s Education Workforce: a Comprehensive Statewide Analysis of Act 10’s Effect on Students per Teacher and Teacher Experience, Salary, and Benefits.”

Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a Republican elected in 2010, passed a collective bargaining law that he considers to be one of his administration’s greatest achievements. The law ignited one of the strongest political controversies in recent history. In 2011, over 100,000 protesters filled the state capitol, fearing the law would have a deleterious impact on public life. Many thought there would be a precipitous fall in the number of teachers due to reduced pensions, diminished bargaining rights, larger classes, and anti-teacher rhetoric.

The study states that the law – Act 10 – has saved Wisconsin taxpayers $5 billion, but it claims its effects on the state’s education workforce have not been well documented. The study attempts to fill that void by conducting a comprehensive examination of Act 10’s implementation and its aftermath.

The study maintains that the law, evidently, has had no significant effect on the number of students per public school teacher. The changes in Wisconsin’s teacher-student ratio has not differed significantly from the changes in other neighboring states like Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan.

Additionally, Act 10 did not increase the number of students per school administrator and school-district administrative staff. In fact, the reverse has happened; district-level administrative support staff and school administrators have increased relative to students since Act 10’s passage. Researchers found little evidence of different impacts between urban, suburban, and rural school districts. Thus, the law had a negligible effect on school ratios across the state’s diverse communities.

Compared to surrounding states, the researchers found no significant effect the law had on school district spending on teacher personnel gross salaries, including on compensation above base pay. The report concludes that the fears shared by many protesters arguing that teachers’ gross salaries would take a hit because of Act 10 have not materialized.

Teachers with less experience have not been hired more often, either. On average, teachers in Wisconsin have .76 year less experience teaching than they did prior to the implementation of Act 10. Such a small decline, however, should not impact student achievement, the report concludes. The state is not running a shortage of experienced teachers, a widely trafficked concern with Act 10.

Prior to the passage of Act 10, the number of fully licensed teachers was declining by 2.2% a year in Wisconsin. After Act 10’s passage, that rate declined to .1% a year over the next four years. The researchers conclude that Act 10 actually slowed the rate of educator loss considerably.

Overall, the report concludes that the claims against Act were “greatly exaggerated and failed to materialize,” despite loud and coordinated opposition. The reforms have saved taxpayers money and considerably improved Wisconsin’s education sector.

For interested readers, the full analysis of Wisconsin’s controversial Act 10 and its effects is available online.