by Robert Maynard
America has seen an exponential increase in public school staff that has far outstripped its increase in students. This surge in non-teacher school employees has driven an explosion in school costs, with little corresponding increase in student performance. Not surprisingly, Vermont is leading the way when it comes to costly non-teacher overhead. In addition to having the lowest pupil teacher ratio in the country (10.7), Vermont also has the lowest pupil to non-teacher staff ratio in the nation (8.8). Is it any wonder that our public school costs have skyrocketed? These numbers are from 2009 and come from a recent Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice report entitled “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools.” The most recent data in the report is from 2009. Here is how the report described the phenomenon they undertook to study:
America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent, while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.
That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent, while the number of FTE school employees increased 39 percent. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent, while administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 46 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period; the growth in the number of teachers was almost twice that of students.
The report introduced another problem that it referred to as “Top Heavy States”:
In the United States, the ratio of students to non-teaching staff is a bit higher than the ratio of students to teachers, 15.9 versus 15.3, respectively. Those data indicate there are more teachers employed in American public schools than there are other non-teaching personnel. However, that difference has been shrinking for at least 60 years. Furthermore, 21 states in FY 2009 employed fewer teachers than administrators and other non-teaching personnel.
Vermont is one of those “Top Heavy States” that employ “fewer teachers than administrators and other non-teaching personnel.” Our ratio of students to non-teaching staff is 8.8, whereas our ratio of pupils to teachers in 10.7. In other words, we have 21.6% more non-teaching staff employed in our public school system that we do teachers. Here are a few charts from the report that spell out where we stand in more detail:
Change in the Number of Students and Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff, FY 1992 to FY 2009
Change in Students Change in Administrators & Other Non-Teaching Staff
Basically, we decreased our student population by 4% but increased our non-teaching staff by more than half.
Number of Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff in FY 2009 Compared to Number of Those Same Personnel if Staffing Had Increased/Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009
Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff, FY 2009 “Extra” Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff Employed, FY 2009
Annual Cost Savings if Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff Had Increased/Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009
Cost Savings Per Classroom of 25 Students if Non-Teaching Staff Had Increased / Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009
Annual Salary Increases per Teacher if Non-Teaching Staff Had Increased/Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009
Could someone tell me how Vermont’s public school establishment can get away with telling us that all of the money being pumped into our public school system is strictly to improve our children’s educational results?