"To the degree this is a shift in the composition of who's in the system ... it is going to align the system more with the direction of current education reform, which I would say is good," says Allan Odden, a professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
But for opponents of the law, it unfairly cuts take-home pay, batters morale, and deprives schools of droves of veteran teachers who are retiring early. "The loss of experience and the loss of qualified mentors [for new teachers] outweighs any financial gain to the districts," says Betsy Kippers, a teacher in Racine and vice president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, a 98,000-member union.
Many states – not just Wisconsin – have been struggling to rein in the benefit costs of public employees. Indiana and Ohio both passed laws this year restricting collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers – though voters may repeal Ohio's in November.
In Tacoma, Wash., the school district's proposal to trim teacher pay, increase class sizes, and reassign teachers based on evaluations rather than strictly on seniority prompted a strike that's now in its fourth day, despite a judge's temporary order on Wednesday that the nearly 1,900 teachers return to work.