The worst consequence of Act 10, and it is a long-term consequence, is that it demeaned the profession of teaching.

Gov. Scott Walker succeeded in getting large numbers of Wisconsinites to look at a teacher not as the person who helps their child or grandchild learn but as simply a union member. And Act 10 permanently reduced teacher compensation. This has led to a growing teacher shortage in Wisconsin.

The potential teachers graduating from high school see other careers with much better compensation and are pursuing those careers.

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs has seen a serious drop from 2012 to 2018.

The proof: The Wisconsin Policy Forum studied the number of freshmen entering four year universities in 2012 (before the clear impact of Act 10) who intended to pursue a career in education. Statewide, it was 11,620 incoming freshmen. In 2018 that number had dropped to 7,739! This is a drop of 33.4%! That means thousands fewer teachers each year. I fear and suspect that trend is worse in 2019, 2020, and 2021 or at least flat at the 2018 number.

I predict big headline stories of this mounting teacher shortage and its impact in classrooms across the state through at least 2025.

This teacher shortage will be felt more in lower property value districts that will not win the competition for the best teachers. Under Act 10, teacher unions cannot negotiate higher competitive wages, but school funds can pay more to attract teachers to their districts.

The losers in this conflict for the smaller number of teachers will be lower property value districts in northern and western Wisconsin and certain urban districts. How ironic that most rural districts support Act 10 and Gov. Walker! I predict we will see districts desperate to put a teacher in a classroom needing to resort more to substitute teachers, long-term substitute teachers and looking for people who can serve as a teacher with some type of temporary license. When they see the above happening, I also see an uprising of parents in Wisconsin.

The question will be: How much will public opinion move governors, legislators and local school boards to address this mess? Act 10 was also another step, a large step, in increasing the partisan divide in Wisconsin.

Now, 10 years of more division can make many think today”s division is relatively new and related to the Donald Trump era. It isn’t. History will confirm that the older traditional Wisconsin politics of compromise and a willingness by both parties to find common ground started to crumble at the beginning of this century.

Twenty years ago and further back in the political history of Wisconsin will show that the political left of the Democratic Party and the political right of the Republican Party did not have the influence on governors and legislators in the 1950s through 2000 compared to today.

There was a time in the 1970s into the 1990s that a bipartisan bill was a plus in Wisconsin politics, and 60% or more of Wisconsin voters appreciated it.

There are some signs of a desire to return to the “old days” with Tony Evers, viewed as the more moderate candidate winning the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 and then defeating Walker, who had built his career on not using the word “moderate.”

It must be pointed out, however, that Evers won a primary with several opponents who were viewed as further left and likely split the left of the party.

Stay tuned!

Tim Cullen is a retired state Senator from Janesville. He was among Democrats who in 2011 fled to Illinois in an attempt to forestall the Wisconsin Legislature’s passage of Act 10.

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