Why Wisconsin is struggling to retain its public school teachers


— A new study finds Wisconsin is having difficulty retaining the number of public school teacher candidates it has and the teachers it has.

The new report, from the National Association of State Education Directors, said Wisconsin has more than 4,000 vacancies in the state’s public school system, a number that has jumped since last year.

That has made the public school workforce more challenging for educators and administrators to find.

The report found that only 23 percent of the states overall public school enrollment is currently filled with students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

In Wisconsin, just over 40 percent of Wisconsin students qualify for those meals.

The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Educational Association, found Wisconsin has been in a state of transition from the 1980s to the 1990s.

In the 1980-81 school year, there were about 12,000 openings for teachers and about 1,800 vacancies for school administrators.

By the end of the 2000-01 school year that number had risen to about 14,500 openings for those positions.

By the start of the next school year there were almost 17,000 open positions.

According to the study, Wisconsin was also among the states with the highest percentage of the state population with low-to-moderate incomes.

The report’s authors noted that the increase in vacancies is especially problematic for low-income and working class students, who typically receive the lowest number of free or low-cost meals per student in the U.S. The report said that in Wisconsin, students are less likely to receive free or lower-cost meal assistance.

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