NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What Will 100,000 New Teachers Cost?

December 16, 1998

Beginning on July 1999, the federal government will forward $1.2 billion to public elementary schools to hire new teachers. The goal is to hire 100,000 teachers in order to lower average class sizes for children in grades 1 to 3 from 23 students to 18 and improve reading skills.

But critics point out that $1.2 billion will only pay for about 27,000 teachers. To pay 100,000 teachers for the next five years would cost $20 billion, estimates the public policy group Citizens for a Sound Economy.

This latest education initiative comes atop years of escalating spending on public schools.

  • Between 1960 and 1992, total spending on schools rose more than 200 percent in constant 1989 dollars -- to $216.8 billion from $67.5 billion.
  • According to the Heritage Foundation, per pupil spending shot up 150 percent between 1981 and 1995 -- to about $7,000 per child.
  • Spending on elementary and high schools came to nearly 7.5 percent of gross domestic product for the 1994-95 school year -- or nearly double the spending on national defense.

Yet the scholastic performance of America's children has been declining for decades, suggesting that more money -- even to hire more teachers -- is not the answer, many experts argue. And quickly hiring lots of teachers could well mean fewer good ones in classrooms.

  • After surveying 227 studies of student-teacher ratios and their effect on student achievement, University of Rochester economist and education researcher Eric Hanushek concluded that broad policies of class-size reduction are very expensive and have little effect on student achievement.
  • Smaller class sizes," says Bruce Goldberg, University of Maryland professor, "don't go to the root of the problem, which is that teachers' unions and labor contracts set the curricula."

Source: Michael Chapman, "Let 100,000 New Teachers Bloom," Investor's Business Daily, December 16, 1998.


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