School district poised to invest as much as $175,000 in keeping, attracting employees as educator pool dwindles
Retaining teachers is a nationwide concern, one the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District intends to invest as much as $175,000 in next year.
States have recently been looking for incentives to attract and retain teachers.
Last week, 16 states including Wisconsin won approval from the federal government for plans to improve teaching conditions.
The plans focus on mentoring new and existing teachers, improving teacher preparation programs, eliminating teacher shortages and giving financial incentives to teachers who work in lower-performing schools.
The Cedar Grove-Belgium School Board approved a 1.46% pay raise for full-time teachers earlier this year and high-performing teachers in the district received raises under a compensation plan approved by the board in April.
The district intends to do more, Supt. Jeanne Courneene said.
“We’re working to be proactive with the teacher landscape here,” she said. “We’re trying to determine what would be unique to Cedar Grove-Belgium that would help retain teachers.”
For a variety of reasons, including Act 10 regulations and efforts to dilute teacher certification requirements, some teachers have left the education field to pursue other jobs.
In the 2013-14 school year, only 39% of Wisconsin school districts had teaching staffs with on average at least 15 years of experience, down from 58% in 2004-05, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project.
According to Cedar Grove-Belgium’s preliminary 2015-16 budget, the district plans to increase salaries by 2.9% compared to 2013-14, the most recent figures available.
Employee benefit spending has decreased statewide, down 8.2% in 2013 compared to 2005.
Cedar Grove-Belgium, however, plans to increase benefit spending by 2.9% in next year’s budget compared to 2013-14.
Teacher recruitment is also an issue districts are facing.
In the 2012-13 school year, there were 57,600 full-time equivalent teachers in Wisconsin public schools, down from 60,500 in the 2004-05 school year even as enrollment has increased slightly, according to the Budget Project.
The decline in the number of teachers in Wisconsin started before changes to collective bargaining rights were approved by state lawmakers in 2011.
Whatever the district does, it must fit it into the 2015-16 budget.
The district’s preliminary budget, which was presented to the School Board on Sept. 9, represents a balanced budget overall, but individual funds may see an increase, Business Manager Kris DeBruine said.
District officials also must decide if they want to tap the district’s fund balance to buy equipment for its soon-to-be-completed fitness center.
“Our fund balance has been slowly draining,” DeBruine said. “If we decide we need equipment and want to hire somebody to run the fitness center, we may want to levy for that.”
State law says districts are not allowed to increase taxes more than the previous year in their community service funds, also known as Fund 80.
Since Cedar Grove-Belgium did not increase taxes in that fund last year, it is technically not allowed to do so this year.
However, the Department of Public Instruction has said districts are allowed to raise taxes at the same rate they did the last time an increase was approved.
In Cedar Grove-Belgium’s case, the district could raise the levy by $100,000 in the community service fund.
The district is allowed to use up to $750,000 from its fund balance to help pay for the fitness center.
The board will further discuss teacher longevity plans and other budget-related items at its meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.