Wis. school districts lose more than 2,000 jobs in year

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released data last Tuesday revealing that Wisconsin lost 2,300 full-time school staff jobs last year, losses some are attributing to state budget cuts to education.

According to Cheryl Maranto, a Marquette associate professor of management, the need to trim budgets in school districts ultimately led to cutting staff members.

“Labor costs are about 85 percent of any school budget,” Maranto said. “What else are you going to cut if it’s 85 percent (of the budget)?”

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Wisconsin is one of 37 states (of 46 states studied) to cut education funding for the 2011-12 school year, with the second largest cuts behind New Mexico.

Jim McGibany, Marquette associate professor of economics added that many school districts rushed to sign new contracts in anticipation of Walker’s controversial budget, and were therefore unable to stay under their own budgets.

“Many reports show upwards of 40 to 45 percent of decreased school positions come from those districts that, because of the signed contracts, could not save money and were forced to have layoffs to stay in-budget,” McGibany said.

Maranto said the cuts to the public sector have also had an impact on job losses in the private sector. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released data last Thursday showing that the state lost 4,300 private sector jobs in March.

“Not only do you have a direct job loss, but you have to think about all those people who had had jobs and were spending money and now they have way less to spend,” Maranto said.

Despite the recent job losses, the state’s unemployment rate still dropped from 6.9 to 6.8 percent in March. This is the lowest it has been since 2008, and it is down from 7.6 percent a year ago. It is also well below the national average of 8.2 percent.

“Wisconsin’s economy is turning around, but there is still a lot of work to do,” said Cullen Werwie, press secretary for the governor’s office, in an emailed statement. “The state has added over 15,000 private sector jobs since the start of the year.”

Marquette economics chair Abdur Chowdhury said the state’s economic statistics show mixed results.

“The manufacturing sector saw an increase of 2,000 jobs,” Chowdhury said. “Among the neighboring states, manufacturing is playing the most positive role in Wisconsin. (However), the loss of jobs in construction last month does not bode well for the housing industry in Wisconsin.”

Chowdhury said he is not sure if the state will be able to meet Walker’s goal of adding 250,000 private sector jobs by 2015.

“Given the current trend in the Wisconsin labor market, it would be extremely difficult to achieve that goal,” Chowdhury said.

Wisconsin has added 15,600 jobs this year, despite the March drop-off. Since Walker took office, private sector employment has increased by 5,900.

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