School districts across Dane County are struggling to fill vacant positions with just a month left before the first day of school.
The effect of a shrinking pool of educators can be felt around the county, as school districts scramble to become fully staffed before September.
Twelve Dane County school districts had roughly 649 teacher, administrative and support staff vacancies, combined, at the end of July. The Madison School District accounted for 323 of those teacher and support staff vacancies, or 6% of its 5,400-person workforce.
The Marshall School District, one of Dane County’s smallest with roughly 950 students enrolled during the 2021-22 school year, had three unfilled positions at the start of August, which Superintendent Dan Grady said isn’t out of the ordinary. But, the lack of interested and available candidates to fill those positions is concerning for K-12 education, he said.
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Madison School District spokesperson Tim LeMonds attributed Madison’s vacant positions to the “state Legislature’s refusal to appropriately fund schools, combined with historical trends of declining participation in teacher education” which, he said, “has created unprecedented staffing pressures for school districts in the Badger State.”
Between May and July, the Madison School District saw 426 staff departures and 94 hires, according to data presented to the Madison School Board.
Nationally, the ratio of hires to job openings in the education sector reached new lows as the 2021-22 school year started, and stood at 0.57 hires for every open position in February, according to the National Education Association.
About 90% of educators surveyed by the National Education Association in January said they felt that burnout was a serious problem, and 96% said raising educator salaries was the most effective way of combating that burnout.
The Madison School Board in July approved a 3% base wage increase for all staff, two-thirds of what local teachers union Madison Teachers Inc. had asked for in May, at the start of negotiations. Many other large and mid-size districts in the state approved 4.7% increases, the maximum amount allowed under 2011 Act 10’s inflationary caps on wage negotiations.
MTI president Mike Jones said he was disappointed by the decision, saying it could affect staffing and hiring for the coming school year.
“We’re going to be planning for a school year knowing we’re going to be down staffing-wise with no discernable plan by the district to increase hiring,” he told the State Journal in July. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions on our end.”
Neither Jones nor Board President Ali Muldrow was immediately available for comment this week.
The use of emergency teaching licenses to help fill vacant positions in Wisconsin has increased during the past decade. Those licenses allow people with a bachelor’s degree who have not completed a teacher training program to teach, or for teachers or staff members to work outside the subject or grade level they were initially licensed to teach.
Across the state, the number of emergency licenses issued nearly tripled from 1,126 in the 2012-13 school year to 3,016 in the 2019-20 school year, and then increased another 30% to 3,942 in the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 90% of educators surveyed by the National Education Association in January said they felt that burnout was a serious problem.