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  • Friedman Foundation Takes a Critical Look at Administrative Bloat in Public Schools

    The Friedman Foundation has published an excellent report detailing the administrative bloat plaguing our nation’s public schools. The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools shows dramatic increases in teaching and non-teaching staff over the past five decades despite modest increases in student enrollment.

    As we detailed in a recent report on growth in non-teaching positions in public schools across the country, student enrollment has increased just 8 percent since 1970, while the number of teachers has increased 60 percent, and the number of non-teaching administrative and other staff has increased 138 percent. (continues below chart)

    The Friedman report, authored by Ben Scafidi, PhD, takes an even longer look, demonstrating that since 1950, public school enrollment has increased 96 percent, while the number of teachers has increased 252 percent and the number of non-teaching personnel (administrators and other staff) has increased an astonishing 702 percent. “Put differently,” Scafidi notes, “the rise in non-teaching staff was more than seven times faster than the increase in students”:

    Between 1950 and 2009, the pupil-staff ratio declined to 7.8 students per public school employee from 19.3 students per public school employee. By 2009, there were fewer than eight public school students per adult employed in the public school system. The drop in the pupil-teacher ratio also was large—the pupil-teacher ratio was 27.5 students per teacher in 1950 and only 15.4 in 2009.

    Scafidi also shows how this administrative bloat has affected schools on a state-by-state basis (and uses an interactive map to make the point). Of note: “Nine states with declining student populations had significant increases in public school personnel—D.C., Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont.”

    The Friedman report notes that the dramatic reduction in class size over the decades has not led to increases in student achievement. Why? As Scafidi reports, an increase in teacher quantity has not produced an increase in teacher quality:

    As public schools have reduced class sizes continually since at least 1950, they have had to hire more teachers. And, the evidence is in—the disparity in effectiveness across teachers is considerable. Accordingly, state governments and local public school boards should have been more concerned with improving teacher effectiveness than lowering class sizes.

    Continuing a trend of growing staff positions in our nation’s public schools won’t create the types of improvements that the system so desperately needs.

    Instead, public school districts should trim bureaucracy and work on long-term reform options for better targeting of taxpayer resources. And decision making should be decentralized, placing staffing and other decisions in the hands of principals, teachers, and parents.

    Finally, parents—and teachers—should have options. We’ll never see improvement in our nation’s education system without providing students with a choice about which schools—public, private, virtual, or homeschooling—will best meet their unique learning needs.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Friedman Foundation Takes a Critical Look at Administrative Bloat in Public Schools

    1. TakeTimeToLearn says:

      While I believe the numbers that the Friedman Foundation is posting, I think that simply dividing the number of students by the number of teachers is not indicative of the actual class size. In the little town of Windsor, Co. ( where my kids went to public school over the last 20 years), the class sizes for primary education has increased from 22 students per teacher to an average of 25, and the High School class size is currently at 22 (an average for the classes my kids have attended). So, where are all the extra teachers? Perhaps they are all the “specials” that are required by law for the “at risk” and "impaired" children.

    2. guest says:

      Put another way, fewer and fewer tax dollars make it to the classroom each year – but rather are consumed by low-level bureaucrats attending union rallies.

    3. Joe in Los Angeles says:

      Finally Heritage finds the core of waste in education. When conservatives finally realize they have allies in classroom teachers true reform will occur! I am a Republican teacher in the Los Angeles Unifeid School District. Administration is bloated even with years of budget cuts. Now they are bulling us in ways too many to list right now. (Ask me and I’ll give you a few later.) Please note an important increase in staff was caused by the federal 1977 law creating IEPs for students with learning disabilities. LINDSEY!! investigate the costs of that legislation, please. And a final question? So these numbers include the numbers of bureaucrats in the various Education Departments. Those people – so-called educators who rarely visit a classroom are the true culprits in the system. Burn down the Departments of Education pay down the debt and no one will notice the difference in the classroom … wait we will, because there will be no fools wasting my time with OSHA-like regulations and paperwork!

    4. Ulmhawk says:

      A great distortion of the facts. Administrators are not part of the teacher's union. Why would there be such an increase in non-teacher positions? Mandates! Especially for special education. I know of several special education aids that work one on one with students all day. Great for those students , but this represents lots of money spent on low achievers.

    5. Ron Hansen says:

      We must, absolutely must elect people that will return tax dollars to the parents to spend on education as they wish. It is not only the incredible waste on support staff, but the incredibly insipid curriculum that we have in public schools.

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