Wisconsin’s Fiscal Cliff? WILL Examines Fiscal Calamity if Act 10 Were Repealed


The News: The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) released its latest report, Back to the Past: The Fiscal Threat of Reversing Act 10 in Public Education, providing an in-depth examination into the fiscal impacts on school districts of reversing former Governor Scott Walker’s landmark collective bargaining reforms. Our findings show that ending Act 10 would create a substantial hole in school district budgets, negatively impacting the educational experience of Wisconsin students across the state.

The Quotes: WILL Research Director, Will Flanders, acknowledged, “When Act 10 was passed it took Wisconsin off the path of fiscal destruction toward long-term solvency and today, we still see the positive ramifications of that. With a new court challenge seeking to declare Act 10 unconstitutional, school districts should be watching their bottom line closely. If the lawsuit is successful, not only would school districts be on the hook for about $1.6 billion in new costs annually, but it could also mean an inadequate educational outcome for students.”

New Berlin School Superintendent, Joe Garza, echoed this sentiment saying, “If we were to return to Pre-Act 10 finances, we would need to cut and adjust in many areas, including the ability to provide 1-to-1 technology and career and college preparation. We would also likely see a 10-15% reduction in the teaching and learning budget and have to increase class sizes.”

What Would Repealing Act 10 Cost?

  • Restoring collective bargaining for teacher salaries could cost nearly $650 million annually.
  • Eliminating employee contributions to retirement could cost about $422 million annually.
  • Eliminating employee contributions to healthcare could cost about $560 million annually.
  • The bottom line: In total, school districts could be on the hook for $1.6 billion annual if Act-10 is fully repealed. A fiscal impact of this magnitude will create problematic decisions for school districts, a combination of property tax increases, the need for larger class sizes, and cuts to popular programs as well as an inability to offer pay-for-performance rather than simply paying more for time in the field.

The Fears Never Materialized: Prior to the passage of the law, there were claims that the legislation would be devastating to the state’s teaching workforce, and that teachers would leave the profession in droves. However, Wisconsin has more teachers than in 2002—a decade before Act 10 was passed. Our report also examines additional myths that detractors of Act 10 have said would happen, but never did.

Dig Deeper:

Will Flanders, PHD

Will Flanders, PHD

Research Director

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