What kind of teachers are retiring?
Laurel Walker in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote a column about the unusual number of teacher retirees retiring and laments the loss of teaching quality. Among the school districts she mentions as having an unusual amount of retirements is the Waukesha School District.
The Waukesha School District, in the community where I live, has more than double the usual retirees, a roster of 127 teachers with 3,500 years of teaching experience. How can that be replaced?
Actually, Waukesha is overdue to replace that many teachers. What Walker neglects to mention is that the school district, quite separate from the events in Madison, had a lengthy contract dispute. During that dispute, the early retirement program was suspended, meaning half of the retirees in the number that Walker gives were not allowed to retire last year. Adding the expected number of retirees for each year and you no longer have “double” the normal number of retirees.
One of the reasons the teachers union gave for having the early retirement program is that it would make room for younger teachers. Not only would these younger teachers be cheaper but they would have fresh ideas and would have more energy in the classroom. Early retirement, we were told , actually improves education.
That’s in contrast to what Walker wrote when she mentioned the years of experience that are being lost with all of the retirements.
Of course, there is no way of knowing if the teachers union or Walker is correct. Right now there is no means of teacher evaluation based upon how well they teach the students for Wisconsin teachers. We have no idea if the teachers that are retiring are irreplaceable or if Wisconsin schools would be better off without them. Ironically, the unions fight every attempt to make those evaluations possible.