U.S. public schools have been on a six-decade staffing surge, a new analysis finds—but the hiring money isn’t going to teachers.
Public schools hired non-teachers—meaning, district and school administrators, teacher aides, counselors, social workers, reading and math coaches, curriculum specialists, janitors, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers—at a rate that is seven times the growth of the student population. Teachers were hired at a rate that is two-and-a-half times the student population growth.
That’s according to an analysis conducted by EdChoice, a nonprofit organization that promotes school choice. The study found that if non-teacher hiring had matched student growth, that would save more than $800 billion in taxpayer money—enough to give an $11,000 permanent raise to every public school teacher in the country. But inflation-adjusted salaries for public school teachers have actually fallen by 2 percent since 1992.
During the Great Recession, school administrators were about 1.7 times more likely to fire teachers than they were to fire other administrators or non-teaching staff.
“Are our priorities where they should be?” said Ben Scafidi, the author of the study and a professor of economics at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, in a statement. “Perhaps it’s time for a national conversation about what we say we want versus where we’ve historically been spending our education dollars, and families and teachers should be at the head of the table.”
The study analyzed data from 1950 to 2015 that state departments of education annually report to the U.S. Department of Education. Scafidi concluded that the modern staffing surge, which began in 1992, has been unnecessarily large and expensive: From 1992 to 2014, student enrollment in public schools increased by 19 percent, while public schools increased the number of full-time non-teachers by 45 percent.
This hiring has not improved student outcomes, Scafidi wrote. High school graduation rates did increase between 1991 and 2009, but Scafidi does not attribute that success to hiring more non-teachers, since graduation rates fell during the time period prior to the the recent staffing surge, when schools were still hiring more non-teachers than teachers.
National test scores measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend Assessments for 17-year-olds did not increase during the modern staffing surge. (National reading scores actually dipped slightly.)
The report also broke down state-specific data.
Source: Chart via EdChoice
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.