“Once anchored in communities, teachers are moving from district to district…”  That is one of the impacts of Act 10, the controversial legislation passed five years ago.  An excellent series regarding its effects on students and staff has been running in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I have an additional concern; I worry about how this new “Nomadism” of teachers might affect communities.

My husband and I moved to Oconomowoc in 1961 with four small sons. He had been hired to coach debate and teach social studies.  We bought the second house we looked at and settled in for a lifetime. That was the rule, not the exception, in those days. Teachers and school administrators were very much a stable part of their communities.

Many still are. You will find them participating in (and often leading) community and church organizations.  They volunteer to coach, lead, and assist in sports, arts, recreational and educational youth groups. Long-term teachers provide perspective and insights on community history.  Many retired teachers continue their active community participation by volunteering at the hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers and other institutions.

Act 10, which was aimed at decreasing the power of unions, was supposed to give school boards and administrators more flexibility in hiring and firing and in setting salaries and benefits.

What was unforeseen is that it empowers some teachers more than, it does their bosses. Prior to Act 10, teachers’ unions bargained for salaries and benefits that applied to all.  A school district had a salary schedule and a teacher’s placement on it was clear, usually depending on educational degrees and the number of years served.

There was extra pay for extra work, such as coaching or directing extra-curricular activities, but the basic remuneration was consistent for all.  A kindergarten teacher or a calculus instructor with the same amount of teaching experience and higher education received the same pay.

Now, however, the pay may vary with the expertise of the teacher, or the need for the subject being taught.  Thus, the Nomadic teacher emerges, selling his or her talents to the highest bidder.  Poorer school districts are left behind in the bidding wars.

Even the wealthier districts like Oconomowoc, have their problems. The Journal Sentinel article tells us that OHS principal Joseph Moylan thinks Governor Walker was right to puncture union power over school operations.  However, he expresses consternation at “the new merry go-round reality of teacher staffing.” and at “bidding against my neighboring districts.”  He says, “That’s not the way the world is supposed to work.”

Actions sometimes have unintended consequences. Our schools are already experiencing some of the unintended consequences of Act 10.   Will our communities be next?

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