Does American public education need another $25 billion to preserve thousands of education jobs? That’s what the Obama administration has been calling for and what Democrats and liberals want you to support. The President has mentioned the proposal numerous times on the campaign trail. You know, it’s all about protecting teachers and preserving the public schools. How could anyone possibly be against the idea?
If you think you’ve heard this all before, you’re right. In 2009, Stimulus Funding provided $100 billion to for schools and colleges to help soften state budget cuts and to preserve jobs. And then in 2010 Edujobs funding gave schools another $10 billion to –once again — preserve jobs. What do all these proposals have in common? They’re all motivated by a desire to avoid massive layoffs and avert a “fiscal cliff”. They also share a common assumption that staffing is at levels that should be preserved and that any layoffs would be harmful to teachers and students alike.
A number of recent reports cast doubt on the validity of those assumptions. How Escalating Education Spending Is Killing Crucial Reform, by Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation demonstrates how over the past forty years, education and non-teaching staff jobs have actually increased at a far greater rate than student enrollment. For example, from 1970 to 210, student enrollment increased 7.8 percent while the number of public school teachers increased a whopping 60 percent. Meanwhile, over the same time period, teachers as a percentage of total educational staff decreased by 16.5 percent. Burke also talks about the cost of the real costs of accepting federal money and how it results in decreased options for states to resolve many of their problems. (I too have written numerous pieces on the explosion in school staffing in North Carolina and the alleged impact of teacher layoffs. Access relevant articles here and here).
Another report, The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools by Benjamin Scafidi Ph.D., and published by the Friedman Foundation takes a closer look at the growth in school staffing on a national and state-by-state basis . It focused on employment growth in public schools relative to the increase in student population from 1992 to 2009. What did the report say about North Carolina? Some of the statistics and rankings were telling.
Percentage increase in the number of K-12 students: 35.6% (7th highest)
Percentage increase in total educational staff: 64.5% ( 4th highest)
Percentage increase in number of teachers 67.8% (4th highest)
Percentage increase in the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff: 61.% (13th Highest)
Next time you hear the President or someone else talking about the need to preserve thousands of education jobs, make sure there is a discussion of overall staffing levels and trends, and not merely a ploy to freeze staffing levels — regardless of actual need.