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Research

  • May 08 2017

Back to the Staffing Surge

By Ben Scafidi, Ph.D.

In Back to the Staffing Surge, Dr. Ben Scafidi, professor and director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University, measures U.S. public school employment growth versus student growth, as well as teacher salary fluctuations and student outcomes for the past 65 years. The results go against the grain of a common educational philosophy: that politicians should give public schools more money so they can pay teachers more and reduce class sizes.

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Breaking Down "Back to the Staffing Surge"


Breaking Down "Back to the Staffing Surge"

Checking In Live with Dr. Ben Scafidi

In this report, you will learn:

  • 1

    Public school employment growth continues to dramatically outpace student enrollment growth.

    Between 1950 and 2015, the number of full-time teachers increased nearly two and a half times as quickly as the increase in students, which reduced class sizes significantly. Over that same time period, the number of non-teachers—including administrators, social workers, counselors, reading and math coaches, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and curriculum specialists—increased more than seven times the increase in students.
  • 2

    While schools were hiring many more administrators and other non-teachers, teacher salaries stagnated.

    As public schools were hiring more and more non-teaching staff, inflation-adjusted salaries for public school teachers actually fell by 2 percent. And not only did teachers’ salaries stagnate, but they were also more vulnerable to cuts when school budgets were tightened. During the Great Recession—one period during which the staffing surge was briefly and modestly reversed—school administrators were about 1.7 times more likely to fire teachers than they were to fire other administrators or non-teaching staff.
  • 3

    Hiring non-teaching staff to match student enrollment growth would have saved billions.

    The explosion in “all other staff” hiring had a huge opportunity cost. This report’s conservative estimate puts the potential savings at $35 billion per year, for a total of $805 billion. With that money, public schools could have given every teacher a permanent $11,100 raise or funded $8,000 per year education savings accounts (ESAs) for more than 4 million students.
  • 4

    Despite arguments to the contrary, the staffing surge has not improved academic outcomes for students.

    Those who support this massive spending on non-teaching staff argue that it was necessary to improve the academic outcomes of an increasingly disadvantaged student population. However, empirical studies find that today’s public school students are slightly more advantaged than those of previous generations. And public school students’ academic achievement and attainment have stagnated—or even fallen—over the past several decades.

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