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Will Pension Law Create a Teacher Shortage?

The new public employee pension bill could lead to thousands of additional teacher retirements this year and cause shortages in some teaching fields, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison education official.

Tom Kelley, director of placement and career services in the School of Education, said shortages could develop in the areas of math and science. Existing shortages in special education could be exacerbated, he said.

Today’s math and science graduates can get better starting salaries in private industry, and many current math and science teachers entered the profession in the 1960s and are near retirement age, Kelley said.

“Should these people decide to retire, it is going to be hard to replace them,” he said. “The potential is there for a problem.”

With the low unemployment rate, it is difficult for school districts to fill special education teaching jobs. A spurt of retirements can only make that situation worse, he said.

Kelley said overall, there are two new education graduates every year for each full-time job opening in Wisconsin. However, some states – including California, Texas and Florida – have adopted class size reduction programs that have created many job openings for teachers. When you consider those out-of-state teaching opportunities, there is no surplus of young teachers, he said.

Russ Allen, a WEAC research consultant, said school districts must consider the need for mentors for young teachers in coming years. Nationally, he said, schools will need to recruit 2.2 million new teachers over the next decade.

A recent study by Recruiting New Teachers found that nearly one-fourth of all new teachers leave the classroom in the first three years and nearly 10% leave in the first year. However, schools that use formal programs of training and support for new teachers are highly successful in retaining teachers and giving them the support and tools they need to be successful, the study found.


The public employee retirement bill could lead to the retirement of thousands of teachers in Wisconsin. That means a potential influx of young, new teachers. WEAC has taken steps to help new teachers adapt to the profession. They include:

Posted October 25, 1999