Notes on Wisconsin teacher compensation (focus on salary; no mention of district benefit spending)

Scott Girard:

“Wisconsin’s Teacher Pay Predicament,” published today by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum, says it’s likely to get more challenging for districts to match the rising cost of living, even as many of the largest school systems gave out record wage increases ahead of the 2023-24 school year.

That includes the Madison Metropolitan School District, which gave staff an 8% increase in base wages — the largest allowed by the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. School Board members and Madison Teachers Inc. said it was necessary to keep employees amid an ongoing teacher shortage.

“After years of declines in real wages, teachers and public school advocates may welcome the recent raises for school staff, but the increases also leave a difficult path ahead for district finances,” the Policy Forum report notes.

The nonprofit’s report finds that in 2009, the median gross teacher pay was at $51,069. In 2023, that had risen to $59,250 — but that was over $8,000 less than what it would have been if tied to inflation.

The Forum suggests there are a mix of factors at play, including the exodus of experienced teachers in 2012 after the Legislature and then-Gov. Scott Walker passed Act 10, which limited union collective bargaining rights. Teachers who left their jobs were largely replaced by younger, lower-paid teachers, which reduced the median salaries.

“With Wisconsin teachers leaving the public school classroom at an average annual rate of 8% from 2009 to 2023, this factor has likely held down salaries,” the report states, and adds that “constraints in district spending and in actual increases in teacher salary also clearly impacted these numbers.”

Wisconsin Policy Forum

Other factors either cushioned or exacerbated this impact. Act 10 required teachers to pay greater health care and pension contributions, which limited staff compensation but helped balance school budgets. Starting in 2016, school districts increasingly turned to referenda asking voters to increase local property taxes beyond their revenue limits.

Declining student enrollment, however, has further tightened the limits for districts over these years. In particular, the decrease in student enrollment (-5.8% from 2009 to 2023) occurred without a decrease in the number of teachers (+0.3% over the same time period), leaving some districts stretching fewer overall dollars than they would otherwise have across largely static personnel


Teachers should be well paid and address things like the Foundations of Reading. Massachusetts increased compensation when implementing MTEL.

Madison K-12 healthcare $pending.

Also, union fees are not mentioned.


The world’s third-richest person, worth roughly $161 billion according to Forbes, will also ditch Washington State’s hefty taxes, likely saving him billions of dollars over the long term, according to securities filings, tax lawyers and accounting experts.