When anti-worker legislation called Act 10 became law in 2011 in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker promised that it would be good for public services.
“What we’re doing here, I think, is progressive,” he said and promised that the law would be “good for the middle class for years to come.”
Six years and eight months have elapsed. In that time, Iowa has passed similar legislation and states like Illinois and Minnesota are considering similar anti-worker proposals. But the growing consensus among experts is that Act 10 – which sparked a nationwide anti-worker trend – has been anything but good for middle class families, let alone public services.
According to a report released today by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Act 10 has harmed student achievement across Wisconsin by causing high turnover among public school teachers and other reasons.
“Those concerned about the quality of public education – and of all public services – should understand that Wisconsin’s Act 10 and associated budget cuts have not had the positive impact on education that its proponents claimed it would,” write the authors of the report, David Madland and Alex Rowell. “Policymakers considering similar policies to restrict or eliminate the rights of public sector workers should view Wisconsin as a cautionary tale. Such a law can harm both public servants and the public that they serve.”
The authors analyzed data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and found, among other things:
- Median salaries and benefits for Wisconsin teachers fell drastically after passage of Act 10; by the 2015-16 school year, median compensation was 12.6 percent lower than before the law.
- More teachers left the profession after Act 10 was passed, and exit rates have remained higher than before.
- The percentage of teachers with fewer than five years of experience has increased since the law’s passage, while average teaching experience has decreased.
- There has been less stability in schools with more teachers moving from one district to another.
All of these negative trends are bad news for students and middle-class families.
As the report’s authors state, “Not only do the data show a clear change before and after Act 10 passed, but changes in compensation, turnover, and exit rates appear to be larger in Wisconsin than in other states.”
In fact, due to Act 10, Wisconsin has fallen behind other states in the Midwest, especially neighboring Minnesota. As Wisconsin was implementing Act 10, Minnesota went the opposite direction and championed workers’ rights, which lifted up the state’s economy.
A word of warning is appropriate: Nationwide attacks against public-sector workers and their collective bargaining rights, despite false promises to the contrary, will leave middle class families worse off than before. And that’s a price the nation can’t afford to pay.