Monday, October 29, 2012
Orange County Register
Jerry Brown and Molly Munger differ on what's best for California's K-12 public schools. But the authors of Propositions 30 and 38, respectively, agree that the state's nearly 1,000 school districts can ill-afford to let go any more teachers.
The governor suggests that if California voters approve his ballot measure, a $50 billion tax hike over seven years, there will be no more teacher layoffs.
Ms. Munger, the wealthy philanthropreneuress, promises that passage of her measure, a $120 billion tax hike over 12 years, would not only forestall more teacher layoffs, it also would bring back some, if not all, of the 32,000 teachers cut the past three years.
Parents of California's 6.2 million K-12 students are no doubt tempted to back either measure, or perhaps both.
But there's an alternative that neither Gov. Brown nor Ms. Munger talk about, which would enable the state to maintain the current ranks of public school teachers without socking Californians with billions of dollars in new taxes: Reduce the number of public school administrators and nonteaching staff and use the savings to retain classroom teachers.
Indeed, a new report by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice notes that the nation's public education system has experienced an exponential growth in employment over the decades, and that virtually all 50 states – including California – saw "bloat."
Drawing upon data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics, the report, authored by Friedman Foundation senior fellow Benjamin Scafidi, documented a 96 percent increase in public school enrollment since 1950, but a staggering 702 percent increase in school administrators and non-teachers.
Looking at California, specifically, Mr. Scafidi found that, from 1992-2009, public school enrollment increased 24 percent, while the number of teachers increased by 36 percent and administrators and other nonteaching school staff increased 37 percent.
So even with the loss of 32,000 teachers in recent years, necessitated by the state's continuing budget crisis, the growth in teacher employment over the past two decades still surpasses the growth in K-12 enrollment.
That's not to wish any layoffs upon the state's remaining public school teachers. It's to argue that current teacher employment levels are right about where they should be. And that future cuts in public school budgets should be borne not by those who actually spend their time in the classroom.