Managing Under Act 10

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is running a pretty good series about the impact of Act 10 now that we’re 5 years into it. It points out some of the consequences that some people argue are positive and some argue are negative. For example, since Act 10 teacher turnover has increased as districts compete for the better teachers and/or teachers who teach a specialized subject. Some argue this is bad because it creates more turmoil in the district that loses good teachers and that poorer districts struggle to attract those good teachers. I argue it is a good thing for a freer marketplace for teacher labor to exists because a freer marketplace allocates scarce resources in the most efficient and equitable manner possible. And as the marketplace drives up wages for needed skillsets, it will attract more teachers into that field.

Another example is how 40% of districts have implemented some form of merit pay for teachers. Some perceive that as a bad thing because they believe that merit pay is untenable in an education setting. I think it is a good thing because compensation is the best way to drive the behavior you want. My only lament is that the other 60% of school districts have not moved forward on some form of merit pay.

In any case, many folks, including myself, are frustrated that school administrators have failed to take more advantage of the power given to them in Act 10 to improve outcomes for students and control costs. It occurred to me today… I don’t think many of them know how to manage in this environment.

Before Act 10, school administrators did not really control 80%-85% of their budgets because they were dictated by the union contracts. They never had to create and actively manage┬ácompensation plans, incentive plans, performance, recruiting, retention, staffing, etc. At least, their range of decision-making was severely limited. For some of these school administrators, they have been working in schools for 20+ years and truly are just ignorant of how managers function in the private sector. They aren’t more actively using the tools of Act 10 because they flat out don’t know how.

I would encourage school boards to push their administrators to get management training or exposure from the private sector. It also wouldn’t hurt to hire a few administrators who haven’t spent their entire careers in education. Good leadership and management skills transcend specific industries. Yes, there will be a learning curve, but there’s already a learning curve for lifelong educators in this new environment.