After a summer vacation that brought with it massive cuts to education and took away most bargaining rights of educators, schools across the state are seeing increases in teachers leaving their jobs, leaving some schools no choice but to hire back others who have recently retired.
Ken Syke, spokesperson for the Madison Metropolitan School District, said Madison alone experienced a large increase in retiring teachers from last June.
“Usually, there are 175 teachers retiring at any given year,” Syke said. “Last June, we have seen a 70 percent increase of teachers retiring.”
Despite the dramatic increase of retirees, the state has seen a small increase of retirees being rehired into school districts.
Christina Brey, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, said several school districts have rehired retired teachers as a last minute precautionary measure because of the recent budget cuts and the removal of collective bargaining rights for public employees.
“Occasionally, in the past, school administrators have rehired retired teachers for a number of reasons, although the number one reason, I think, is that the schools need teachers who are properly certified in their roles,” she said. “Due to the $1.6 billion cut and nearly five thousand teachers being forced into retirement, due mostly to the removal of collective bargaining rights, school districts are trying to make ends meet by rehiring retired teachers.”
A statement from the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds said the budget repair legislation requires all state employees, except for state patrol troopers, to pay more for their retirement contribution.
New hires who have participated in the Wisconsin Retirement System are now required to work for a total of 1,200 hours before they are eligible for coverage under the WRS, a 600 hour increase from the previous year.
The statement also said WRS participants from July 1, 2011 will be subject to a five-year vesting requirement while retirement contribution amounts will be taken pre-tax, although subjected to Social Security and Medicare withholdings.
Brey said the implementation of Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining limits this summer, which were heavily contested by teachers and union members throughout the state, will weaken the ability of teachers to bargain for retirement benefits.
“Wisconsin had one of the strongest retirement systems in the whole nation. The result of five thousand teachers being forced out of their work is an unintended consequence of the governor’s actions,” Brey said. “Teachers are reliant on their benefits due to their low salary. The removal of collective bargaining rights greatly affects that.”
Syke said Madison School districts have not rehired retired teachers this year, but instead have hired new teachers, like all previous years.
Still, he said the school district has seen a reduction in efficiency and the total number of teachers since 1993. When asked if the removal of collective bargaining was the cause of the increase in teacher retirements, he said he does not know.
“The biggest concern for the Madison School Districts right now is the increase in class size,” he said. “Classes have grown by one or two students this year.”