Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools

November 2, 2012

Over the decades, the U.S. public education system has experienced growth both in the number of students and workers, says Benjamin Scafidi, associate professor of economics and director of the Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College & State University.

  • Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent.
  • The number of employees at schools grew by an astounding 386 percent.
  • Of those personnel numbers, teachers' numbers increased 252 percent while staffing and administration experienced a growth of 702 percent.

To keep up with increases in student and personnel numbers, federal and state governments have substantially increased funding to public education. Despite the funding, student achievement has not increased.

  • Between 1992 and 2008, public high school graduation rates increased to 74.7 percent from 74.2 percent.
  • However, a higher percentage of students were graduating in 1970.
  • According to the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), reading scores have gone down since 1992, while math scores have stayed the same for students age 17.

On top of that, Americans are spending the most money on education when compared to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, while not seeing marked improvements in student performance.

Rather than continue to employ adults with jobs in public schools, funding can be diverted to more projects that aim to increase student achievement. If public schools had non-teaching personnel grow at the same rate as students and if the teaching force had grown 1.5 times as fast as students, public schools would have $37.2 billion extra to spend per year. This could result in:

  • An increase in teacher salaries by more than $11,700 per year.
  • More funding for early childhood education.
  • Families of each child in poverty could receive $2,600 per child and/or a voucher to attend a school of the family's choice.

To maintain competitiveness in the world's economy, it is important to utilize scarce resources on things aimed at student achievement rather than on increasing staff numbers in public schools.

Source: Benjamin Scafidi, "The School Staffing Surge Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools," Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, October 24, 2012.

 

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