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Madison School District down 141 teachers 3 weeks out from first day of school

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The Madison School District human resources department has 141 more teacher hires to make until the district is fully staffed before the first day of school on Sept. 1, the department told the Madison School Board operations work group on Monday.

That a striking contrast to August 2018, when the district had 30 staff vacancies before the start of the 2018-19 school year, board president Ali Muldrow said.

“Looking at the totality of our vacancies, I’m really concerned about how we’re going to move through this year and what we’re going to do over the course of August to make sure we’re prioritizing staff in front of students,” Muldrow said.

Paul Morrison's Wood Cycle of Wisconsin mills urban trees that would otherwise be burned or chipped into boards for handmade furniture and building products

The district did not provide data on the total number of vacancies across all staff districtwide, but that number was 323 at the end of July. The district’s staff workforce is roughly 5,400 people, 2,116 of them teachers.

Tracey Caradine, the head of the district’s human resources department, said the department is “all hands on deck” in an effort to get the district fully staffed over the next three weeks. Teacher training for the new school year is scheduled to start in less than two weeks.

Caradine said the human resources department plans to use the district’s pool of substitute teachers to make sure staff are in front of all students at the start of the school year. The district is also working in partnership with universities to recruit recent graduates into open roles.

Central office staff may be asked to work as substitute teachers and school support staff members for one or two days a week at the start of the school year as needed, said assistant superintendent Cindy Green.

Board members expressed frustration with the lack of information provided by administration in regard to what is and what isn’t working in the district’s effort to recruit and retain teachers.

“We’ve been having these conversations for a minute now and we’re still here,” board vice president Maia Pearson said. “We’re all racking our brain and there are some tangible things we can do in the immediate future.”

Local teachers union president Mike Jones had previously told the Wisconsin State Journal that the district’s inability to meet the $5 per hour increase for hourly staff or the 4.7% base wage increase for teachers, requested by Madison Teachers Inc., has hampered the district’s ability to recruit and retain staff members. The Madison School Board in June approved a 3% base wage increase for teachers, the highest in the district’s history but just two-thirds of the annual inflationary amount and the maximum allowed in bargaining under Wisconsin’s Act 10 law.

Superintendent Carlton Jenkins on Monday again pointed to the state Legislature’s $0 revenue limit increase in the biennium as a main reason the district is unable to achieve the $5 per hour increase for hourly staff members and the 4.7% base wage increase for teachers requested by MTI.

The district saw more than 570 staff departures ahead of the upcoming school year, according to data presented to the Madison School Board.

Nationally, the ratio of hires to job openings in the education sector reached new lows as the 2021-22 school year started, and stood at 0.57 hires for every open position in February, according to the National Education Association.

About 90% of educators surveyed by the National Education Association in January said they felt that burnout was a serious problem, and 96% said raising educator salaries was the most effective way of combating that burnout.

The use of emergency teaching licenses to help fill vacant positions in Wisconsin has increased during the past decade. Those licenses allow people with a bachelor’s degree who have not completed a teacher training program to teach, or for teachers or staff members to work outside the subject or grade level they were initially licensed to teach.

Across the state, the number of emergency licenses issued nearly tripled from 1,126 in the 2012-13 school year to 3,016 in the 2019-20 school year, and then increased another 30% to 3,942 in the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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