How will Georgia schools increase student achievement when tax dollars disproportionately fund non-teaching jobs?
In "The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America's Public Schools," Benjamin Scafidi shows that while public school student enrollment grew at a rate of 96 percent from fiscal year 1950 to fiscal year 2009, non-teaching public school staff grew a whopping 702 percent, more than seven times the rate of student growth. Teacher numbers grew by 252 percent.
So as National Assessment of Educational Progress scores have remained the same or decreased since 1992, the hiring of non-teaching personnel has exploded.
From a business standpoint, this is a very bad return on investment: a 702 percent investment in non-teaching personnel returning flat to decreased student achievement.
Why aren't we putting more support in classrooms and making high-quality classroom teachers the top earners?
Scafidi shows that states could save more than $24 billion annually if the employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff was proportionate to the rate of increase of students.
Is the problem more money or more money well-spent?
Texas schools hired 159,228 non-teaching personnel, above and beyond Texas student enrollment, from fiscal year 1992 to fiscal year 2009.
And while Virginia tops the current list of major offenders with 60,737 more administrators and non-teaching staff than teachers in its public schools, Georgia also makes the cut.
In fiscal year 2009, the ratio of students to public school staff in Georgia was 13.8 to 1. Show that figure to teachers breaking their backs in classrooms ratios of 35 to 1, and being told by the 702 percent that if your student test scores come back too low, your annual evaluation may be revised.
States could save taxpayers billions per year by returning to staffing ratios of fiscal year 1992, argues Scafidi.
Among his recommendations is universal school choice to empower every parent to hold schools directly accountable for educational opportunities available to their children.
In the current edition of The Economist, the benefits of public school dollars following the child are illustrated in the Bhandari Modern Public School experiment. Using vouchers, Dr. Bhandari's students are outperforming public school peers in reading and math.
Sweden allows parents to take the U.S. equivalent of FTE dollars and use them for private schools.
The glut of increased public school staffing has not proportionately improved student achievement despite monstrous burdens to moribund taxpayers. Given the lack of evidence that the 702 percent increase since fiscal year 1950 in non-teaching jobs has increased student achievement, isn't it time for dramatic change?
When I write about school choice I am commonly dubbed anti-public education, but I am pro-student achievement by whatever means necessary.
American students deserve hard-working policymakers who will move this country out of low rankings in math, science and reading, to give young people a chance in an increasingly competitive world.
And if it that offends the 702 percent, well then so be it. I'm much more interested in helping the 96 percent they aren't teaching.
Jeff Meadors represents District One on the Newton County Board of Education. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org