The school staffing surge

Between 1992 and 2009, the number of public school students grew by 17 percent, teachers by 32 percent and administrators and support staff by 46 percent, estimates The School Staffing Surge, a Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice report.

Before and after No Child Left Behind was passed, school staffs grew at more than double the rate of enrollment growth, writes Benjamin Scafidi. Schools hired more teachers — and a lot more support staff and administrators.

Compared to other nations’ schools, U.S. public schools devote significantly higher fractions of their operating budgets to non-teaching personnel—and lower portions to teachers.

. . . For example, Maine experienced an 11 percent decline in students from 1992-2009; however, the number of public school personnel increased by 35 percent. Perhaps more noteworthy during that period is the number of teachers in Maine public schools increased by 3 percent while the number of non-teaching personnel increased by 76 percent.

The staffing sure did not lead to improvements in student achievement or graduation rates, the study found.

If non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as the growth in students and if the teaching force had grown “only” 1.5 times as fast as the growth in students, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year, Scafidi writes. Among other things, that would be enough to give every teacher a $11,700 per year raise, double taxpayer funding for preschool, give $2,600 in cash — or a $2,600 school voucher — to the parents of each child living in poverty. Or the taxpayers could get a break.

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  1. Deirdre Mundy says:

    One thing I find curious about President Obama’s campaign promise to hire more teachers —

    Aren’t we facing population decline and a baby bust as a result of the recession? Isn’t this a really bad time to hire more teachers, since we’ll probably have to close schools and consolidate classes as student numbers decrease?

  2. I’m willing to bet that the high-performing countries do not allow student disruptions, whether from inadequate socialization (aka brats and thugs) or from a spec ed issue – and I’ve read that classes are large. Disruptive students suck up lots of teacher/staff time, in addition to denying the rest of the class appropriate instruction. If disruptors were removed and classes were homogeneous, according to academic level, most classes could be larger – particularly beyond the first few years and particularly at the upper end of the curve (with some exceptions, like foreign languages). When I was in school in the 50s, large classes were the norm, but misbehavior was not tolerated and we all knew it. Neither more money nor more teachers has led to improved outcomes.

  3. cranberry says:

    The document doesn’t mention autism. The CDC estimates 1 in 150 children born in 1992 had an autism spectrum disorder. 1 in 88 children born in 2000 have an autism spectrum disorder.

    Are the “non-teaching personnel” file clerks, or are they classroom aides and psychologists?

    Curiously enough, in Maine, From FY 2000, the number of children with Autism served by DHHS increased three-fold and the number of adults with Autism doubled.

    Classrooms for autistic children have low teacher (adult)/student ratios. More children identified at younger ages with autism would imply more spending on “non-teacher personnel.” I would not expect spending more on severely disabled children to translate into greater student achievement or graduation rates. Living independently is often the goal.