Too many non-teachers?

Thirty-one percent of school employees implies are support staffers — clerks, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, security guards — and another 12 percent are aides, reports Fordham’s The Hidden Half.

Their salaries and benefits absorb one quarter of school expenditures.

Is it worth it?

Half of school staff aren’t teachers

Half of school employees aren’t teachers, reports The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach.

The U.S. spends a much larger percentage of education funding on non-teaching staff than other countries, more than double the spending in Korea and Finland.

Teacher aides represent the largest growth category over the last 40 years. “From 1970 to 2010, aides went from nearly non-existent to the largest individual staff position, outside of teachers,” according to the Fordham report.

Teacher aides have little, if any, positive effect on students’ academic achievement,” concludes an analysis of Tennessee’s Project STAR. Decreasing class size to 14 to 17 students in the early grades raised achievement significantly, especially for black students.

School staffing has increased by nearly 400 percent since 1950. Much of the growth occurred from 1970 to 1980. “Passage of several pieces of federal legislation — such as Section 504, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, and Title IX (Equal Opportunity in Education Act) — likely played a big part in changing the makeup of schools.”

Aides often are hired to work with special ed or English Learner students. That is, the adult with the least training works with the kids with the most needs.

Union: Parents can’t fund non-union aides

Parent donations fund school aides in a Los Angeles area school district, but the classified employees union has threatened to sue unless the parent-funded aides join the union or are replaced by union members. Parents should send their donations to the district to fund the program, the union says.

That won’t work, responds a petition signed by Culver City parents.

 Since the same small pool of donations would have to pay for union dues, administrative overhead and higher union wages, our kids may only receive about half of the attention they get now. Parents will lose control of their programs and see their donations pay for very little. Many parents may stop donating altogether, effectively killing the programs.

My daughter’s elementary school PTA raised money to pay for aides, who were union members hired by the district. But there was no history of parent control over the program. And we had a lot of affluent parents who were happy not to be paying private school tuition.

Only 2.5% of teachers were laid off

Despite predictions of massive teacher lay-offs, only 2.5 percent of teachers were laid off in 74 urban districts that responded to a National Council on Teacher Quality survey.  Three California districts — Long Beach, Sacramento and San Diego — laid off 20 percent of teachers. Excluding these outliers, 1.5 percent of teachers lost their jobs for financial reasons. About half of the districts reported no layoffs.

Last spring, districts projected laying off 160,000 teachers, about 5 percent of the total. More than 200,000 “educator” jobs have disappeared, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Districts report not replacing some teachers who retired or resigned and laying off central-office employees. Aides and other support staffers lost their jobs in New York City.

Few districts avoided teacher layoffs by reducing the school year or cutting teacher benefits, the survey found.

PTA-paid aides must go in NY

New York City schools can’t use parent donations to pay extra aides, the administration has ruled in response to a teachers’ union complaint. PTA-funded aides, hired by principals, typically make $12 to $15 an hour compared to $23 an hour for aides hired by the school district.  But the district can’t afford the more expensive aides, even as it’s increasing class sizes.

“The reason the teaching assistants are here is because they’ve been stuffing so many kids in these classes,” said Patrick J. Sullivan, co-president of the Parent-Teacher Association at the Lower Lab School (P.S. 77), where parents spend $250,000 a year on the teaching assistants. “Nobody wants to break any rules, but 28 is just too many kids for one teacher.”

. . . Supplemental fund-raising from parent groups has long raised questions of fairness. While the ability to provide extras — teaching assistants, books, computers and art supplies, enrichment programs — has helped keep middle-class families in urban public schools, it also can make it more difficult for schools in poor neighborhoods to compete.

But the teachers’ union didn’t protest based on equity. A  union official complained that some of the aides didn’t go through the city’s screening process and might not be qualified.