COVID-19 boosts teacher retirements, putting Wisconsin school districts in a bind | Local Education | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools

Nate Perry knew he would have troubling finding enough teachers this year to staff his small school district south of Madison.

At just 900 students, the Belleville School District struggles to attract and retain teachers in a normal year. Now add in the COVID-19 pandemic and the related mass workforce exodus known as the Great Resignation.

So Perry picked up the phone.

“We have cold-called a lot more candidates more recently than we’ve ever had to do before,” Perry said.


He estimated that the teacher candidate pool has shrunk 25% to 50% compared with over a decade ago, when he began to help with the hiring process as a school building administrator. And, in the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated shrinkage of that pool across Wisconsin as the number of teacher retirements mounts — causing districts to scramble, often at the last minute, to fill vacant positions.

The pandemic has put school districts on their heels, Mount Horeb Superintendent Steve Salerno said.

“We’re really having a difficult time (with staffing)” in his district of roughly 2,500 students, he said.

Teacher retirements increased nearly 14% in 2020 over the previous year, compared with a 0.2% increase in retirements in 2019 over the previous year, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds. The increase in teacher retirements in 2020 could be due to a number of factors, such as baby boomers who put off retirement until last year, concerns about COVID-19, and career or life events, ETF spokesperson Mark Lamkins said.

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