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Milwaukee Public Schools down 200+ teachers, some students will start school without a regular teacher

Milwaukee Public Schools are not the only school district in southeastern Wisconsin dealing with a teacher shortage.
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Posted at 5:30 PM, Aug 18, 2022

MILWAUKEE — The largest school district in the state is starting off the school year down a couple of hundred teachers. Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) are not the only school district in southeastern Wisconsin dealing with a teacher shortage. It is an issue that could mean your child shows up to school without a regular teacher in the classroom.

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Teachers and the community welcome in Early Start students for the first day of school at Milwaukee Public Schools. (August 15, 2022)

Milwaukee Public Schools already have kids back in the classroom for the early start calendar and the rest of the students are about to head back. However, MPS is down 230 teachers right now.

First grade MPS teacher and head of the Black Educators Caucus Angela Harris says the spots will likely not be filled before the traditional school calendar starts and early start calendar students are already back.

Angela Harris, chair of the Black Educator Caucus for Milwaukee Public Schools.

“That means there are some classroom spaces that will start the school year and have likely started the school year already without teachers in place,” said Harris.

She says in the past students have walked into their classroom and found a paraprofessional, a school administrator, or a long-term substitute teacher in charge.

Earlier this week, MPS Superintendent Keith Posley told TMJ4 News there were challenges ahead with the lack of staff.

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A Milwaukee Public School student walks into school for the first day of the Early Start school year.

“It is going to take all of us day one through the last day of school every day showing up for young people,” said Posley.

The teacher shortage goes beyond just Milwaukee. The Madison School District is down 141 teachers, Racine Unified School district has 73 teacher vacancies, and the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District is down 23 teachers.

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Teacher Vacancies

Recruitment is underway to fill those positions. A drive-through job fair was held earlier Thursday by Employ Milwaukee. The group was focused on filling jobs for 60 companies in the city, including Milwaukee Public Schools.

“Since COVID, there has been an influx of job opening and people changing careers thinking about what they want to do so anyone looking for a job from a high entry-level job to mid-level, low-level entry job, they are out there,” said Jeff McAlister, business sector specialist at Employ Milwaukee.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum senior researcher Sara Shaw has been studying the teacher shortage in the area. She says a major problem is there has been a 20-percent drop in people getting bachelor’s degrees or certificate in education.

Jeff McAlister of Employ Milwaukee walks back from talking to someone during a drive-through job fair was held earlier Thursday. (August 18, 2022)

“Right now, there are not enough graduates from education programs, to be able to fill the projected teacher openings. And those projected teacher openings are projected both thinking about where our teachers coming in, but also how quickly our teachers, leaving the profession, especially as we have an aging Baby Boomer population,” said Shaw.

“When we talk about teacher shortages, we have to understand that it is going to affect our students academically because they aren’t going to have that teacher of record in the classroom that they are going to build a long-term relationship with that is coming into that classroom with the knowledge of the curriculum that they are teaching,” said Harris.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum says they have projected they would be around 2,500 teacher openings a year in southeastern Wisconsin with only about 2,000 graduates to fill those jobs. That leaves at least 500 open teaching positions every year to be filled from elsewhere.

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