Wisconsin teachers earn more than Minnesota teachers

The public-sector union landscape in Wisconsin changed dramatically following the passage of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, subsequently known as Act 10, in 2011. Workplace democracy was restored through union recertification elections; collective bargaining was limited to wages and salary; merit pay rewarded high performing teachers; underperforming teachers—regardless of seniority—were more easily removed.

Opposition to the landmark legislation was strong among government unions, and since its passage, teachers’ unions such as Education Minnesota have “warned” educators of becoming like Wisconsin if similar union reform is passed. “The teachers’ union always warns us that we ‘don’t want to become like Wisconsin,’” shared a Minnesota teacher during one of Educated Teachers MN’s focus groups. “We are made to believe that educators have it so terrible across the border.”

But research by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty revealed that Act 10 did not bring about the dramatic negative outcomes its critics forecasted.

In fact, data from Education Minnesota’s national affiliate, the National Education Association, show that the average public school teacher salary in Wisconsin is higher than in Minnesota. During the 2018-19 school year, the average salary of Wisconsin teachers was $58,277 compared to Minnesota’s average of $58,221. Wisconsin teachers averaged higher salaries than Minnesota teachers the previous school year as well. NEA’s estimates for 2019-20 salary averages have Wisconsin teachers earning $59,176 and Minnesota teachers at $58,663.

Wisconsin school districts have more freedom with their compensation systems since they are no longer tied to strict union pay scales. Nearly 40 percent of districts in the state offer some type of performance-based pay, which treats teachers like the professionals they are versus compensating them like line workers who all earn the same salaries for the same years of service.