Non-Teachers Make Up Half of Public School Workforce

August 14, 2014

Non-teachers make up half of the public school labor force today, according to a report by Matt Richmond for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with 25 percent of education expenditures going to non-teacher salaries and benefits.

How has school staffing changed over time? According to Richmond:

  • Staffing in general has increased 84 percent since 1970, from 3.4 million to 6.2 million.
  • Significantly, however, much of that growth has come from growth in non-teaching positions (1.8 million in additional non-teaching staff, compared to 1.1 million new teachers).
  • During that 40-year period, the ratio of students to staff became 8 to 1, down from 14 to 1 in 1970.

Who are these non-teachers? Librarians, janitors, superintendents, guidance counselors - all of these positions fall into the "non-teacher" category. Primarily, however, growth in non-teachers has come from instructional aides. Aides, who comprised just 1.7 percent of all staff in 1970, now constitute 12 percent of all public school staff. While the share of teachers as a percentage of public school staff dropped from 60 percent to 52.4 percent in the decade following 1970, the amount of instructional aides grew to 7.8 percent of all staff.  

Why has this happened? A number of federal regulations in the 1970s and early 1980s added new responsibilities for schools, such as a 1975 mandate requiring education for children with handicaps and a 1968 law aimed at creating English programs for bilingual students. Additionally, Richmond reports that schools had obligations to provide a number of new services for students, such as programs for youth with drug problems, which further incentivized districts to hire staff to accommodate the additional duties.

The report notes that among all countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spends a much larger portion of education budgets on non-teachers, with the exception of Denmark.

Richmond encourages districts to evaluate their staffs and determine whether positions are necessary or whether certain services could be provided more efficiently.

Source: Matt Richmond, "The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don't Teach," Thomas B. Fordham Institute, August 12, 2014.

 

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