ON-Lion Letter

As Wisconsin reaches the five-year anniversary of Act 10, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has released a new report that examines 100 school districts across the state to determine how some superintendents are using this legislation to reform their public schools. This report emphasizes three broad themes in its attempt to highlight the untold stories of positive change in Wisconsin’s educational system since the passage of Act 10.  

The report’s first theme focuses on merit pay for teachers.  With the elimination of the old “steps and ladders” seniority system as a result of Act 10, superintendents have now implemented a variety of programs that seek to compensate teachers based on their performance.  These new merit-pay approaches are designed to encourage teachers to continually improve their skills and to reward those educators who are achieving excellence.

The report’s second theme underscores superintendents’ greater flexibility in hiring, firing, and management.  Before 2011, it was difficult for administrators and school boards to effectively manage their classrooms as they saw fit.  But after Act 10, WILL found that they were able to act with greater freedom to reduce staff as needed (based on qualification, not seniority), to hire new teachers according to specific classroom needs, and to establish different pay scales for high-demand, high-performing teachers.

The report’s third theme shines a spotlight on greater collaboration with teachers. While Act 10, at least for the short-term, will continue to be a contentious issue, WILL found some evidence that suggests superintendents have used Act 10 to improve the working relationship between teachers and their school boards, in addition to allowing teachers and administrators to collaborate directly in order to foster increased innovation and experimentation in the classroom.  Under Act 10, teachers can now work together and make suggestions to administrators regarding new initiatives for their schools and their students. In many districts, WILL found that Act 10 has had the effect of enabling schools to meet specific needs more effectively while also allowing teacher and administrator relations to flourish.

Although WILL cautions readers against making over-generalizations about their findings due to the limited nature of its study, this report seeks to tell the untold story of how some superintendents are using Act 10 to reform Wisconsin’s public schools for the better. 

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation substantially supports WILL.

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