The sky isn’t falling.

But don’t just take our word for it.

From this weekend’s Wisconsin State Journal


Sky isn’t falling on public schools

…Here in Madison, the School Board avoided teacher layoffs, launched a 4-year-old kindergarten program, opened a new middle school and gave teachers raises based on years of experience.

Yet teachers in Madison still took a hit in take-home pay because they are now contributing to their pensions. 

That financial burden shouldn’t be ignored or minimized. Yet many private sector workers have fared a lot worse in this challenging economy. And thanks to Walker’s budget, homeowners are finally getting some property tax relief.

As for next school year, Madison is “well-positioned for the future,” according to its assistant superintendent for business services. That’s because the local School Board can still require its employees to contribute to the cost of their health insurance, and the district has some unused taxing authority.

The WASDA survey didn’t specifically explore how many districts across the state have similar flexibility for next year. But the survey did find that a net 3,368 education positions — nearly half of them teachers — have been shed across the state this year.

That’s a lot more than in recent years, which is disturbing. But there’s more to the story: If you remove a few of the big school districts, such as Milwaukee, that didn’t or couldn’t require their employees to contribute more to pensions and health insurance — meaning they didn’t use the “tools” Walker gave them to absorb state aid cuts — staff reductions are relatively small. 

According to the WASDA survey, 75 percent of Wisconsin students in kindergarten through third grades, for example, have the same or reduced class sizes. The survey also shows little change in course offerings. And the number of students per teacher, librarian and counselor is basically the same.