Twenty-One States Employ More School Staff Than Teachers

Published March 5, 2013

A surprising new education study provides some clues to why K-12 public school funding has tripled in inflation-adjusted dollars since the 1950s.

The report flags 21 states as “top-heavy” because their public schools employ more nonteaching staff than teachers. 

While the U.S. K-12 student population has doubled since 1950, the number of school employees has nearly quadrupled, notes “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II.”

Classroom teachers in Virginia, the most administration-heavy state, could earn $29,000 more every year if public schools had hired non-teaching staff at the same rate as student population growth. Minnesota teachers could earn $15,000 more each year.

“We have increased employment in public schools at a much greater rate than the increase in students, and the most disconcerting part of that trend is that we’ve hired more administrators and other staff than teachers,” said Benjamin Scafidi, author of the report for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

U.S. public schools have put 606,000 more “nonteaching personnel” on the payroll than the number needed to keep pace with the growth in students in 1992-2009, according to the analysis of data schools report to the U.S. Department of Education.

“That’s a startling fact, and I think it would surprise most people, but it wouldn’t surprise public school teachers. They’ll tell you this has been going on for a long time,” said Scafidi.

The “extra” non-classroom employees cost taxpayers approximately $24 billion per year, according to calculations in the report. 

“States could do much more constructive things with those kind of dollars,” said Robert Enlow, the foundation’s president. “State leaders could be permitting salary increases for great teachers, offering children in failing schools the option of attending a private school, or directing savings toward other worthy purposes. Instead, states have allowed these enormous bureaucracies to grow.”

Texas was rated as the state with the most “extra” public school employees, with 160,000 nonteaching personnel above the corresponding increase in students, at an annual cost of more than $6 billion.

Tom Steward ([email protected]) is a reporter for Minnesota Watchdog, where an earlier version of this article appeared. Reprinted and edited with permission.


Learn more:
“The School Staffing Surge,” Benjamin Scafidi, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, February 2013:

Image by Vincent Ma.