Teachers are half the staff

Teachers make up only 50.8 percent of all K-12 public education employees in the United States, reports the Education Intelligence Agency.

Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia employ more non-teachers than teachers. South Carolina ranks highest in the percentage of teacher employees at 65 percent, while Kentucky brings up the rear with classroom teachers making up only 42.6 percent of its public education workforce.

Look for more data in EIA’s pay and staffing report, which uses data from the Census Bureau, Department of Education and National Education Association.

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  1. Here in California, we have some of the largest class sizes in the country. We also have layer upon layer of educational bureaucracy.

    The bureaucacies continue to grow, while the number of students served by the typical teacher stays the same. Go figure.

  2. Mike in Texas says:

    Aw c’mon, Edwonk, don’t be so cynical. California spent millions to lower the average elementary class size from 29.75 to 29.

    I wish this site had a little sarcasm thingy

  3. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I wish this site had a little sarcasm thingy

    Hey, me too.

    So Mike, with all your complaining about administrators don’t you just wish there was a way to, presto! change-o! cut their numbers down to a bare minimum?

  4. This whole discussion is one of the reasons I have so much problem with the school system here in NYC. The last statistics I read was that the ratio of teachers to non-teachers in the ed dept was 35% teachers, 65% non-teachers. In fact, as I recall, there were more managers than there were teachers. Something seems wrong with this, especially when the average cost per student is over 13,000 and the results are as bad as they are. Granted, there are a couple of truly great schools here (Stuyvesant, Bronx School for Science, Music and Arts, Brooklyn Polytechnic) but the majority are an abomination. Just seems to me that switching the ratio would be a big help, but then the NEA would have a fit.

  5. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    with all your complaining about administrators don’t you just wish there was a way to, presto! change-o! cut their numbers down to a bare minimum?

    Wow Allen, something we can finally agree on. Actually, the district I work for has a small administrative group who largely leave us alone and let us do our jobs. It is the non-instructional staff that drive me up the wall. Many of them seem to believe their time is more important than a teacher’s and that they have the right to evaluate our request for services for validity before they comply. I would definately like to see their numbers cut down.

  6. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Wow Allen, something we can finally agree on.

    Don’t let it go to your head. You’ve still got a long way to go.

    Actually, the district I work for has a small administrative group who largely leave us alone and let us do our jobs.

    And that would be what? 35% of the district budget? 45%? Your notion of “small” may not be anyone else’s idea of “small”. For example, my idea of a small administrative budget is 0%.

    Then, all of what used to be the administrative budget is divvied up among the teachers as salary increases. What do you say Mike? Do we have another idea we can agree on?

  7. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    my idea of a small administrative budget is 0%.

    I don’t remember the actual figure for my district but it was very small, on the order of less than 5%. There is a website Texas public school districts and see their budget breakdowns. I have lost the link however.

    all of what used to be the administrative budget is divvied up among the teachers as salary increases

    Although a salary increase would be nice, I’d rather see the money used on techniques proven to be effective at improving education, smaller class sizes, smaller schools, more teacher training. Notice high stakes testing is not on that list.

  8. Mike in Texas says:

    Just seems to me that switching the ratio would be a big help, but then the NEA would have a fit.

    Most times teachers and administration are in conflict; why do you think the NEA would have a fit?

  9. Mike in Texas wrote:

    I don’t remember the actual figure for my district but it was very small, on the order of less than 5%.

    In no particular order of likelihood:

    A) It’s not true but you’re quoting a district-generated number under the assumption that it is.

    B) You know it’s not true but you’re unwilling to consider that there are any fundamental failings to the public education system such as an inescapable squandering of public monies.

    C) It’s true and you work for a charter.

    D) It’s true and you work for a rural school district that doesn’t have large amounts of high-priced real estate to shake down. In other words, poverty enforces fiscal discipline.

    E) Who cares? Your district’s hardly representative of public education while the EIA numbers were pulled from census, DoE and NEA sources and are national.

    Besides, the admirable fiscal discipline shown by your district is unlikely to ignite a firestorm of similar fiscal responsibility in the balance of the public education system so take lots of pictures and notes. Something this uncommon might have the makings of a PhD thesis provided you can get anyone to believe you.

  10. Mike in Texas says:

    Hmm, it seems to me we could fill this out with all the letters of the alphabet.

    Could it be that most schools are properly managed but you, Allen, take the examples that only suit your opinion and run with them? Of course, we all do that to support our beliefs and opinions.

    Once again we will disagree after all.

    A)I have no idea where the numbers come from

    B)I’m sure there are many school districts that squander public money, but that doesn’t mean we should punish all of them

    C)I do not work for a charter

    D) I work for a rural school district that is considered property poor by the stae of Texas

    E)I think my district is highly representative of most in the country

  11. Steve LaBonne says:

    No, Mike; if you look at the available figures for % % non-instructional expenditure across the country, it’s clear that the majority have more than could readily be justified as pertaining to genuinely essential support functions, and a sizeable minority are truly bloated. And this is AFTER districts have had a opportunity to cook the books as to how they describe the allocation of their expenditures; I don’t think 100% of the “instructional” budget in many districts would turn out to be really that on closer examination.

  12. A) Nice. It fits your preconceptions so you quote it with no concern about credibility or bias.

    B) Who mentioned punishment? I’m just dismissive of the notion that a public school district should be assumed to be responsible with public money. As far as I’m concerned the district-based public education system has exhausted the assumption of good faith.

    C) It was a, you should excuse the expression, educated guess.

    D) And this was the other possibility.

    My intuition is that wastefullness is a function of, primarily size and secondarily, wealth. Since rural districts tend to be both organizationally small and relatively less well funded then the average.

    A school district that doesn’t have a top-heavy bureaucracy both can’t afford it and can’t distance itself sufficiently from public scrutiny to build a big, fat bureaucracy.

    I’m fairly sure though that that doesn’t keep them from trying.

    Tell me Mike, which part of the school district organizational structure rarely sees a lean day and which parts can hear their bones rattling?

    Does your district have a Chief Instructional Officer? How about an assistant superintendant in charge of safe, clean and healthy schools? A public relations office with a bigger budget then any of your elementary schools?

  13. Mike in Texas says:


    My school district has only 1 asst. supt. We also have 2 full time curriculum people and 1 who is a part-time teacher and curriculum person (I believe this is possible b/c of an alternating day schedule at our junior high)

    I did find the website I was thinking of, my school district reports admin. expenditures of 4.9%.

    Do I believe these numbers to be totally accurate? Not really, for example it claims we only spend 3.6% on atheletics. Given the huge number of coaches we have (many of whom do not teach, they only coach), and the number of athletic teams we have, I do not believe this figure.

    The dollar figures come from what’s called PEIMS, which is the state reporting system.

    The website address is:


    Its a bit tedious to search through, you have to know the names of the counties you wish to search thru. I reside in Nacogdoches county, which has one large school district and 4 small school districts. If you wish to suggest they should all be combined to lower administration costs I will agree with you completely (did I just say that????)

  14. One more data-point in support of my theory that the conventional, district-based public education system is inherently wasteful, given the opportunity and, by inference, inherently resistant to delivering a good education as a minimum.

    If you had more budget then most of it would dissappear into the administration. The reason I can write that with confidence is because that’s what always happens.

    Look at any large, municipal school district. To the best of my knowledge, and I’ll freely admit that I don’t have access to comprehensive information so this is purely anecdotal, all large, municipal school districts have large administrations. I don’t mean 4.6% against your districts reported 3.6% ( by the way, I don’t believe that number but I’ll let it go) but 35%, even 55% of district funds going to support the administrative functions.

    The problem, in a nutshell, is that all hierarchical organizations get hijacked by the people at the top, sooner or later. All.

    There’s only two ways to prevent that hijacking and the first is to keep the organization on the ragged edge of starvation.

    It isn’t just the imminent prospect of hanging that wonderfully concentrates the mind. Starvation’ll do pretty well as a means of keeping you pointed in the direction of survival as well.

    That still won’t keep the school superintendant from makng a case for a car and driver but it’ll make the expenditure loom larger.

    The second way to keep administrative expenses down is to break the big organization up into little organizations. Just the opposite of your suggestion to combine all five school districts into one from which will flow organizational savings.

    Combine those districts and not only will there be no savings but the costs will actually go up. Every bureaucrat will hang onto their job but there’ll now be a layer of management to handle the integration of the school districts.

    But break the districts up so each school is on its own and a lot of these problems just go away.

    If the administrative function is combined into a very few people, one would be ideal, the opportunities for creative organizational management diminish.

    If you’re the principal of the school and your simply swamped and an assistant would be just the thing to keep you on track, well, if that assistant happens to claim the same budget dollars as would have gone to hire a new kindergarden teacher then, as the sole maker of those sorts of decisions, you’ll have half the parents of those kindergarden kids parked on your desk demanding to know why your administrative assistant is more important then their kindergarden teacher?

    You want the current system, the status quo with which you’re comfortable. You just want it to change a bit. To accomodate what you see as important. To elevate your demands, concerns, preferences above those that currently rule the situation.

    Sorry to burst you’re bubble but that ain’t gonna happen.

    So you can stop worrying. We still don’t agree.