Author(s): Benjamin Scafidi
America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent, while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.
That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent, while the number of FTE school employees increased 39 percent. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 46 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period; the growth in the number of teachers was almost twice that of students.
The two aforementioned figures come from “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools.” This companion report contains more state-specific information about public school staffing. Specifically, this report contains:
- Each state’s percentage change among students and administrators and other non-teaching personnel from FY 1992 to FY 2009 (Table 1).
- The actual and “extra” number of administrators and non-teaching staff in each state. “Extra” is defined as the excess non-teaching staff hired beyond the rate of change in each state’s student population over the past generation, FY 1992 to FY 2009 (Table 2).
- Each state’s cost savings if the increase/decrease in administrators and other non-teaching staff had been the same as the increase/decrease in students from FY 1992 to FY 2009 (Table 3).
- Each state’s cost savings per 25 students if the increase/decrease in administrators and other nonteaching staff had been the same as the increase/ decrease in students from FY 1992 to FY 2009 (Table 4).
- The increase in teacher salaries that would be possible if the change in employment in non-teaching personnel had not exceeded the change in the student population from FY 1992 to FY 2009 (Table 5).
- Each state’s ratio of students to non-teaching staff in FY 2009 (Table 6).
- A comparison of the ratio of students to non-teaching staff and the ratio of students to teachers in each state in FY 2009 (Table 7). The 21 “Top-Heavy States” that employ fewer teachers than other non-teaching personnel are highlighted in Table 7.
- For the 21 “Top-Heavy States,” the difference between the number of other staff and teachers in FY 2009 (Table 8).
- The actual ratio of students to all public school employees in FY 2009 (Table 9).
This report also contains a response to criticisms of the 2012 report. It is worth noting that the critics do not dispute that Long-Term Trend scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have remained the same or have fallen since 1992 and employment growth has surged in America’s public schools.
Highlights of this report’s findings include:
- 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.
- Fully one-fourth of those savings come from Texas, where public schools would have saved almost $6.4 billion if they had not increased the employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff more so than their increase in students. Texas public schools hired 159,228 additional non-teaching personnel, above and beyond its growth in student enrollment during FY 1992 to FY 2009.
- Virginia would have had an extra $29,007 to spend per teacher if it had limited the growth of administrators and other non-teaching staff to its growth in students from FY 1992 to FY 2009. Maine would have had an extra $25,505 per teacher, and the District of Columbia would have had an extra $20,472. Those funds could have been spent on salary increases for teachers or some other worthy purpose.
- 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 nonteaching 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.
As was discussed in the original “Staffing Surge” report, the increases in public school employment since 1992 do not appear to have had any positive returns to students as measured by test scores and graduation rates. Some likely will try to cherry-pick an individual state and point out that a particular measure of student achievement increased at the same time that public school employment grew dramatically; however, such an approach is misleading because, across all states, public school employment surged, while student achievement did not measurably increase. If student achievement increased in a certain state, why did it not increase—or why did it decrease—in other states when public school employment increased? Perhaps there were other reasons student achievement increased in any particular state.
Readers should keep in mind the concept of opportunity cost when making determinations for their individual states. One should ask whether the significant resources used to finance employment increases could have been spent better elsewhere. Would those taxpayer funds have gone further via vouchers or taxcredit scholarships, which enable students to attend schools better suited to their needs? Would raises for teachers have been a wiser investment? Perhaps letting taxpayers keep those funds may have been more effective. Those questions need to be asked and analyzed in every state capitol—inside by lawmakers and outside by parents, education reformers, the business community, and others. The burden of proof is now on those who still want to maintain or even increase the dramatically larger staffing levels in public schools.