The graph pretty much says it all. However, if you would like to read the report behind it, “The School Staffing Surge, Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools” (November 2012) by Benjamin Scafidi, Ph.D. with the Friedman Foundation click Here.
Compared to other nations’ schools, U.S. public schools devote significantly higher fractions of their operating budgets to non-teaching personnel—and lower portions to teachers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is one of the highest spending nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) when it comes to K-12 education.
There is no evidence in the aggregate that the increase in public school staffing caused student achievement to improve. In a shocking finding, economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman and his co-author, Paul LaFontaine, found that public high school graduation rates peaked around 1970. Thus, as staffing was rising dramatically in public schools, graduation rates were not.
In addition, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Long-Term Trend exam for 17-year-old students in public schools have not increased during the time period studied. Between 1992 and 2008, public schools’ NAEP reading scores fell slightly while scores in mathematics were stagnant. After the sizeable increase in the teaching force and the dramatic upsurge in the hiring of non-teaching personnel, student achievement in American public schools has been roughly flat or modestly in decline.
As more adults gain employment in public schools, there is no evidence their numbers are leading to improved academic outcomes for students. And this increase in staffing has a significant opportunity cost. If non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as the growth in students and if the teaching force had grown “only” 1.5 times as fast as the growth in students, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year. This $37.2 billion in annual recurring savings could be used:
- to raise every public school teacher’s salary by more than $11,700 per year;
- to more than double taxpayer funding for early childhood education;
- to provide property tax relief;
- to lessen fiscal stress on state and local governments;
- to give families of each child in poverty more than $2,600 in cash per child;
- to give each child in poverty a voucher worth more than $2,600 to attend the private school of his or her parents’ choice;
- or to support a combination of the above or for some other worthy purpose.