School districts in rural areas and states with small urban populations employ more nonteaching personnel per student than urban schools, according to a recently released report.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank based in Washington, examined the nonteaching workforce in schools nationwide to determine who makes up the nonteaching staff, and how that staff has changed over time. The report, “The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach,” found that teacher aides make up the largest portion of non-teaching personnel, a personnel category that includes staff members like guidance counselors, custodians, and librarians. Since 1970, the number of nonteaching staff at schools nationwide has grown by 130 percent, and now makes up about 50 percent of the staff at school districts.
In 2010, rural school districts had an average of 74 non-teaching staff members per 1,000 students, compared to about 60 per 1,000 students in 1993. By comparison, city schools only grew from about 52 nonteaching staff members per 1,000 students in 1993 to 57 per 1,000 in 2010. The report found that the gap has been largely driven by the dramatic increase in teacher aides and “other” staff, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers, in rural districts. Although city districts have added teacher aides, they have decreased in the percentage of “other” staff members.
The report suggests that rural districts may have a more nonteaching staff members per student partly due to unique transportation issues. While urban districts can consolidate transportation services, rural districts often serve large geographic areas and require more transportation staff. Urban schools can also more easily share staff members across local schools or nearby districts. The report also suggested that because rural districts often struggle to recruit and retain talent, those districts may rely on uncertified staff or aides to fill empty positions.
For more on the report and the changes in non-teaching personnel, check out Denisa R. Superville’s post in District Dossier.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.