As rising health insurance costs have eaten up most of the 3.8% total compensation target, teacher salaries in Wisconsin have stagnated and even declined. As a result, Wisconsin teacher salaries fell 6.8% from 1997-98 to 2007-08, when adjusted for inflation. For 2007-08, Wisconsin's teacher salaries ranked 21th in the nation at $49,051, down from 20th the year before, and below the national average of $52,308.
That's from the teachers' union's website. But they apparently offered the following concessions on flexibility last week:
* Dropping a teacher pay schedule that rewarded longevity and advanced degrees but little else. The union now supports “merit pay” based on performance, national certification, leadership roles, and how teachers handle more difficult assignments such as bilingual or special education, or teaching in under-performing schools.
* Adopting student test results, a peer review panel, mentoring and other factors to root out ineffective teachers.
* Breaking up the state's largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, into six smaller units within four years.
In my view, Walker should have taken all these concessions and run with them: big cuts in benefits and openness to merit pay? It's a relief to see David Brooks arrive at roughly the same conclusion. There is such a thing as over-reach.