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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Measures in the bill include allowing retired teachers to re-enter the workforce. 

Retirement bill attempts to tackle state-wide teacher shortage

With Wisconsin’s growing teacher shortage, a retirement bill today aimed to remedy one of the multitudes of issues causing the problem. 

In Rep. Mary Felzkowski’s, R-Irma, proposed legislation, retired teachers would be able to come back to the profession without losing retirement benefits and increasing the retirement age to 59.5. 

“I hear from my school districts all the time about creative solutions they are forced to use when trying to fill vital teacher positions because there just are not enough people,” Rep. Felzkowski said in a release

The Wisconsin Association of School Board identified attrition, a measure of the number of teachers leaving the profession, as a key issue in the teacher shortage in a release today. 

“Often this occurs through retirement of older teachers but, alarmingly, this is increasingly happening with teachers much earlier in their careers,” WASB Director John Ashley said in a release

Felzkowsi’s bill, however, does not address many of WASB’s other concerns regarding teacher shortages across the state. 

The number of aspiring teachers has decreased with fewer students enrolled in teacher preparation programs and many young teachers subjected to high rates of turnover due to poor salary and benefit reasons, according to WASB. 

In addition, there are fewer aspiring teachers in occupational training programs. 

In the 2009-’10 school year, there were 12,624 teachers enrolled in Wisconsin teacher preparation programs. This number declined by 37.6 percent down to 7,878 in 2016-’17.

Ashley called on the legislature to address student loans — another reason for the teacher shortage. 

“At a time when rising student loan debt is a growing concern, it makes no sense to force would-be teachers to pile on additional debt while they provide uncompensated service,” Ashley said. 

Ashley asserts that retaining teachers is another crucial aspect of solving this problem. 

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“Retaining teachers has become a challenge facing school districts with respect to teachers of all experience levels, but it is a particularly pressing issue for those new to the profession,” Ashley said. 

Between 40 and 50 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years, according to research cited by WASB. Felzkowski acknowledges there is no simple solution to solving the growing number of vacant teacher desks. 

“This bill will not solve the whole problem, but it’s just one tool in the tool box for our school districts and other WRS employers to bring their most experienced professionals back into the workforce,” Felzkowski said.

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