“Between 1950 and 2015, the number of students in America’s public schools doubled,” writes Benjamin Scafidi, professor and director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University, in “Back to the Staffing Surge: The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades-Long Employment Growth in American Public Schools,” released by EdChoice in May. “However, the public education system increased its FTE (full-time equivalent) staffing by almost four times the increase in students. The number of FTE teachers increased by almost two and a half times the increase in students, while the increase in ‘all other staff’—personnel who are not classified as teachers—increased by just more than seven times as fast as the increase in students.”
Scafidi concludes “real increases in taxpayer funding for public school students are diverted away from salary increases for teachers and toward the hiring of additional non-teachers.” “The 65-year staffing surge “has been a costly failure,” Scafidi writes.
Scafidi says governments are shifting the blame for the staffing surge and its failures.
“Representatives of every level of government blame the other two levels of government for the staffing surge,” Scafidi told School Reform News. “Local public school officials claim the staffing surge has been caused by mandates from federal and state governments. State officials claim federal mandates and local school board inefficiency and bloat are the causes of the staffing surge. The feds think state and local school officials are to blame. Looking at the data, each of these three levels of government has contributed to the six-and-a-half decade-long staffing surge.”
Scafidi says the current situation is untenable.
“We cannot continue to have three levels of government funding and regulating schools and giving parents essentially no say in how school resource decisions are made, as is the case now,” Scafidi said.
‘Just Doesn’t Add Up’
Leslie Hiner, vice president of programs at EdChoice, says the staff increases are not based on students’ needs.
“As an example, since 1992, Ohio had a 3 percent decrease in number of students, yet somehow there was a whopping 56 percent increase in nonteaching positions,” Hiner said. “There were fewer students to bus to and from school, fewer students needing math coaches and counselors. Hiring more adults to provide services for fewer students just doesn’t add up.”
Hiner suggests teachers unions have been behind the staffing surge.
“It is likely that teachers unions play a significant role in the continuing increase in nonteaching staff,” Hiner said. “Teachers unions do not only represent teachers in public employee collective bargaining. They also represent those in nonteaching positions, called ‘paraprofessionals and school-related personnel.’ More public school employees means more union dues.”
Costing Teachers, Taxpayers
Hiner says the staffing surge is causing teachers to suffer a huge loss in potential earnings.
“Public school teachers could have seen an $11,000 increase in their [annual] salaries if the increase in nonteaching personnel would have kept pace with, instead of wildly exceeding, the increase in students,” Hiner said. “This appears to be a conflict of interest for the teachers unions. Do they prioritize more members or a better deal for their existing members? For decades, it has been the former.”
Hiner says taxpayers will have to be vigilant if they hope to turn back the staffing surge.
“Citizens should request a list of school district personnel, with salaries, by teacher positions and by all other staff positions,” Hiner said. “It may take weeks to get the information, it may cause a stir, but taxpayers have the right to examine how their tax dollars are being spent in public schools. And parents have a right to know whether nonteaching staff have greater influence than teachers over their children’s education.”
Tori Heart ([email protected]) writes from Wilmette, Illinois.
Benjamin Scafidi, “Back to the Staffing Surge: The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades-Long Employment Growth in American Public Schools,” EdChoice.com, May 8, 2017: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/back-to-the-staffing-surge-the-great-teacher-salary-stagnation-and-the-decades-long-employment-growth-in-american-public-schools?source=policybot