Hundreds of Wisconsin teachers have announced their intention to retire in June of this year, in much higher numbers than in normal years. Many of them cite Governor Scott Walker’s proposed changes to public employees’ collective bargaining rights as the reason.
Madison school superintendent Dan Nerad says that his district is losing teachers because they fear that Walker’s plan will cut deeply into post-retirement benefits for public employees. The district will fill the positions as quickly as it can, but Nerad believes that students and novice teachers will feel the effects of losing so many seasoned educators. “Our intention is to replace them with knowledgeable people,” he said, “but as a rule they will be less experienced.”
School districts across the state are reporting higher than usual numbers of teacher retirements. Middleton-Cross Plains superintendent Don Johnson said, “Although there is no current evidence that the state system would change in the near term, staff is still concerned.”
Teachers are not the only profession seeing higher than average numbers of retirees. Overall, public employee retirement rates have jumped more than 80% since last year.
Collective bargaining rights will remain intact until 2013 under Walker’s law, which is currently facing a number of legal challenges. Many teachers and other state employees, however, see staying on as a potentially risky decision.
Madison school librarian Patty Schultz says that she arrived at her decision to retire in an administrative meeting discussing the new law. “It was sitting in a meeting where people were discussing the possible impact of (the law) and looking at my husband and both of us feeling that we couldn’t take what we thought was a risky approach to our future.”
In Madison, 138 teachers have given notice that they intend to retire. The number is a 62% increase over the average annual number of retirements since 2006.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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