Borsuk:  Politics  aside,  finding (and  keeping)  excellent  teachers  is  at  the  heart  of  what  schools  require

Borsuk: Politics aside, finding (and keeping) excellent teachers is at the heart of what schools require

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, March 19, 2019

Alan J. Borsuk, Special to the Journal Guard
Released 1:46 p.m. CT M arch 1, 2019 | Updated 2:01 p.m. CT M arch 1, 2019

Three of the best education leaders in the Milwaukee area, each from quite various circumstances, were on a panel that I moderated at a event a few days ago. One of the concerns from the audience was: What’s your greatest need?

Each put teachers at the top of the list.

Finding new instructors, keeping excellent teachers, offering teachers scenarios in which they can be successful — these are urgent concerns for simply about every school and district. That extends across the Milwaukee location, the state and, for that matter, the entire country.

Will the new state spending plan do anything to affect this? I’m positive we can take the word of teachers and school leaders that that should be a front-of-the-mind concern as the tale of the state budget takes twists and turns in the next few months.

I have no idea how the budget plan will turn out. The space in between what Gov. Tony Evers proposed on Thursday and what the Republican bulks in both homes of the Legislature support is huge. Both sides appear to be pretty determined. Politicians on both sides are stoking acrimony. 

Neither side can force their way to a conclusion — Evers’ ideas face too much Republican politician opposition, the Republicans don’t have enough votes to override vetoes from the governor. Let’s assume that at some point, they will have to work together to settle on a budget plan.

Evers’ propositions are probably popular with public school instructors. He’s calling for a lot more money to be sent to schools. The amounts are enough to photo considerable pay increases in many districts and potentially even some class size decrease (a huge concern in lots of schools).

If the significant increase he imagines in state assistance of special education came to pass, that may allow alleviating the classroom-level obstacles lots of instructors face when they have one or numerous kids in a room who are tough to manage while the instructor is trying to lead the entire group.

RELATED: Tony Evers seeks to overhaul the state’s school financing formula to account for poverty

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There are other products in Evers’ proposal that definitely appeal to teachers. Here’s one that has gotten little attention: “The Governor advises requiring that teachers are offered the greater of 45 minutes or a single class duration for preparation time each day.”

Where did that come from? It was an idea pushed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state instructors union. Is it a bad idea? Many teachers complain that they wear’t have enough time to prepare and work together. Specialists on the practices in some of the nations around the world getting the finest education results (Finland, Singapore and so on) say that offering instructors time to prepare pays off in huge methods.

Does more teacher preparation time belong in the state budget plan? That’s arguable, and the future of the concept when it strikes truth in the Legislature seems skeptical. However it’s there. Perhaps a lot more money for local schools would lead some districts to implement it locally — who knows?  

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Or how about more spending on low-income students? It is much-too-vividly clear that prospering with low-income kids takes more than with kids from higher-income homes. Evers’ proposition is to create a “poverty factor” in which low-income children would be counted for 20% more than other children when it came to calculating help.

This might bring districts such as Milwaukee a lot of loan. Might that help instructors prosper in situations where couple of kids now reach efficiency? But the idea appears almost specific to be a tough sell in the Legislature.

Or offering more money for 4- year-old kindergarten? There are chosen officials in both parties in Madison who state cash spent on early education is money well invested.

Currently, fundamental public support for full-day 4- year-old kindergarten is 0.5 or 0.6 of what is paid for kids in any other grade. Evers would raise that to the same as any other grade, beginning in the 2020-’21 school year. Would additional money mean teachers could have more resources or staff to assistance get better results with young kids?

These are a few of the concepts in Evers’ proposal. There’s more. (And then there are the proposals to limitation private schools registering kids using publicly-funded coupons or to crimp the number of charter schools not using instructors worked with by school districts. It’s actually hard to see these propositions going anywhere in the Legislature. I’m betting on the status quo quite much continuing on those fronts.)

RELATED: Gov. Tony Evers seeks to freeze enrollment in personal voucher schools, suspend charter school growth

The national news on education for the last year has been filled with stories of mad instructors, objecting in huge numbers at state capitols or going on strike or both. West Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma. There have been strikes recently in Los Angeles and Denver and simply this past week in Oakland, California.

We haven’t seen that in Wisconsin (except for the 2011 Act 10 fight in Madison over pay, advantages, and union power). That’s partly because things for instructors are worse in numerous of those places than in Wisconsin (and I’m not stating they’re so great in Wisconsin).

But don’t underestimate the serious requires of teachers and teaching in Wisconsin. Don’t underestimate the future effect of low registration in teacher-training programs and the teaching profession frequently being dealt with with so little respect. Don’t underestimate the monetary squeeze on many schools now, due to elements such as high expenses for special ed kids. 

People want excellent schools. They desire excellent teachers for their kids. They desire their money spent sensibly. They desire taxes kept under control. The recognize great schools are important to the state’s future.

Eventually, some middle ground will be discovered on the state spending plan. Is it too much to hope that the new ground will be a location that increases the chances of kids succeeding in all schools and makes the future of mentor in Wisconsin brighter?     

Alan J. Borsuk is senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette Law School. Reach him at alan.borsuk@marquette. edu.


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