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  • Presidential Debate Prep: Schools Should Trim Education Jobs

    Calls to spend more on teachers are likely to come up in tonight’s debate. More likely still, we’ll hear accusations that Governor Mitt Romney wants to slash education spending by 20 percent.

    This figure is a reference to the House of Representatives-approved budget, authored by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, which aims to trim non-defense discretionary spending but does not specify cuts to K-12 education.

    While the House-approved budget does not specify a 20 percent reduction in federal education spending, such a move would be wise. The American public education system has shown no improvement despite a near tripling of federal spending since the 1960s.

    President Obama wants to aggressively increase the amount of money taxpayers spend on Washington education programs. Specifically, he has been trying to sell the notion that the federal government must spend more taxpayer dollars to fund education jobs and that failing to do so will result in fewer teachers in the nation’s public schools.

    This campaign began in earnest with the so-called stimulus in 2009, which gifted a one-time bonus of nearly $100 billion to the Department of Education. The Administration states that “approximately 275,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors, were saved or created with this funding.”

    On the heels of that historic infusion of cash, a year later, in 2010, the Administration pushed, and Congress passed, the Education Jobs Fund—a $10 billion public education bailout—in order to “save or create education jobs for the 2010-2011 school year.” Education Secretary Arne Duncan argued that the funding would “enable schools to keep an estimated 160,000 or more education jobs.”

    And now, as part of his “Education Blueprint,” President Obama has put forward a breathtaking proposal to spend another $25 billion “to provide support for hundreds of thousands of education jobs.”

    Aside from constitutional issues involving federal pay for education employees, spending billions of taxpayer dollars through Washington to prevent public school layoffs are unwise and unnecessary.

    The White House often conflates education jobs with teaching positions, leaving the impression that reductions in staff rolls in the public education system will necessarily lead to fewer teachers in the classroom. While many school districts face potential staff reductions, the growth in non-teaching staff over the past five decades should inform decisions about education staffing and spending.

    Teaching and non-teaching staff positions in public schools across the country have increased at far greater rates than student enrollment over the past four decades. From 1970 to 2010, student enrollment increased by a modest 7.8 percent, while the number of public-school teachers increased by 60 percent. During the same time, non-teaching staff positions increased by 138 percent, and total staffing grew by 84 percent. Teachers now comprise just half of all public education employees.

    If school districts are cash poor, they should trim non-teaching staff positions—there is ample room. Removing federal red tape would help in such an effort, as a non-trivial number of administrative positions are the result of the bureaucratic compliance burden associated with the operation of federal education programs.

    Posted in Education, Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    3 Responses to Presidential Debate Prep: Schools Should Trim Education Jobs

    1. Using percentage increases for your graph is highly misleading, since the metric for each of the lines is quite different. Also, you ignore the fact that public schools now have obligations–highly popular with the public–to meet the needs of special education students, as well as increased expectations to deal with the many negative consequences of increasing poverty among children, and increased numbers of students whose first language is not English. So, comparing education staffing in 1970 with 2012 is like comparing staffing levels for corporate IT departments over the same period. It's only because you automatically assume that increased staffing of public institutions is bad that you automatically conclude that cutting positions would have no effect on educational outcomes.

    2. Cecil Byrd says:

      It does not matter how much money one "invests?" in education, if the teaching learning environment is not conducive to learning, teachers will continue to be unable to teach and students unable to learn and the same outcomes and trends will continue. Two until we insist that every student leave high school with employable skills we will continue to fail. Three unless we return to teaching, modeling and internalizing quality values we will continue to be motivated by bigotry, greed, dishonesty and selfishness, disrespect, and of the virtue that drive us forward. With regards to the student's question at the town hall meeting debate: the responsibility to make sure a student gets an education and skills in an employable field is the student's, the school's, the parent's. I want to know what his major is, what job he wants, how he did in school, how much applied learning he has, and what the career planning and placement office at his school is doing. If a school is allowed to take money to train and prepare a student for the world of work and a career then they should be responsible for placement and employment and let the student and his parents know that the chances of you getting a job in this field are slim and know and you sign a waiver acknowledging that you realize this and want to pursue the path of knowledge for knowledge's sake. Neither candidate responded to the kid's question. Call me up, kid when you graduate and i will get you a job too. Great answer.! Give a person a fish and feed them a day; teach them to fish and they feed them a life time.

    3. axat says:

      Using percentage increases for your graph is highly misleading, since the metric for each of the lines is quite different.

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