There are too many people working in America’s schools.
1950 to 2009, the amount of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees grew
386 percent while the amount of public school students only grew by 96
percent, according to a recently released report from the Friedman
Foundation for Educational Excellence.
even closer at the data reveals that the number of teachers increased
by 252 percent during this time period, while administrators and other
staff experienced growth of 702 percent – more than seven times the
increase in students.
Some states – like
Iowa, Louisiana and Mississippi – even increased their staffs when
their student populations were declining. By far, the worst offender
was my home state of Maine, which saw a decline of 10.8 percent in its
student population, but an increase of 76.1 percent in its total staff
from 1992 to 2009.
There is no evidence
that student achievement has improved because of school staffing
increases. Scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress
(NAEP) Long-Term Trend exam for 17-year-old students in public schools
did not increase between 1992 and 2009. Graduation rates also stagnated
during this time period.
Adding this much
additional staff comes with a significant cost. In fact, if the
teaching force had grown 1.5 times as fast as the growth in students,
public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year.
increase in teachers resulted primarily from the mistaken belief that
class size is the key variable that affects student achievement – a
myth I dispelled in a previous blog post.
increase in staff has led to excessive bureaucratization of school
systems. A 1987 study found that teachers spend eight hours a week
completing paperwork – it makes sense to think that it has only become
more burdensome since then.
Illinois follows this trend. From 1992 to 2009, total staff at public
schools grew at more than twice the rate of the state’s student
population – 27.8 percent versus 14.3 percent. Teaching staff grew at
1.5 times the rate of the student population – 14.3 percent versus 21.5
percent. And administrators and other non-teaching staff grew at 2.5
times the rate of the student population – 14.3 percent versus 35.9
explosion in employment shows just how far the education system has
strayed from its primary responsibility of helping students become
intelligent, informed and hard-working members of society.