Since 1950, employment in the nation’s K-12 public education system has grown nearly four times faster than enrollments, according to Department of Education data. Benjamin Scafidi looks in detail at this staffing surge in a new report from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice:
Nationally, states could have saved—and could continue to save—more than $24 billion annually if they had increased/decreased the employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff at the same rate as students between FY 1992 and FY 2009. […]
There are very large differences in the employment of non-teaching personnel across states. For example, whereas Vermont has only 8.8 students for every administrator or other non-teaching employee and Maine has only 9.4 students per non-teaching employee, Rhode Island has 20 students per every administrator or other non-teaching employee. Wyoming has 9.9 students per every non-teaching employee, whereas Idaho has 22.7 students per non-teaching employee. Those differences are much larger than the differences in the employment of teachers.
Twenty-one “Top-Heavy States” employ fewer teachers than other non-teaching personnel. Thus, those 21 states have more administrators and other non-teaching staff on the public payroll than teachers. Virginia “leads the way” with 60,737 more administrators and other non-teaching staff than teachers in its public schools.
There are significant differences in total employment ratios across states. Vermont, Maine, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia each have fewer than six students per public school employee. That compares to more than 10 students per public school employee in Idaho, South Carolina, Arizona, California, Utah, and Nevada. [“The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II,” by Benjamin Scafidi, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, February 2013]
As Scafidi points out in his report from last October, math scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress tests have been flat since 1992 while reading scores have actually declined. Graduation rates for the same period when up by half a percentage point—from 74.2 percent to 74.7 percent. It seems the investment in staff, in other words, has not produced a return in increased learning. [“The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools,” by Benjamin Scafidi, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, October 2012]