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April 17, 2018

Raise Teachers' Salaries by Draining the Public School Administrators' Swamp

 

Public school teachers have taken to the streets in a number of states demanding higher salaries. Conservatives often respond by claiming that we already spend enough on public education—an average of $11,392 per student, according to a recent article in Governing magazine. But not all of that money is going to teachers; administrators siphon off the lion’s share of those funds. 

Kaitlin Mulhere, writing in Time last year, looked at teachers’ salaries across the country:  

The national average salary for public school teachers was $58,064 in 2015-2016; average teacher salaries range from a low of $42,025 in South Dakota to a high of $77,957 in New York, according to an annual data set published by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

When teachers demand raises and elected officials resist, the media and the political left always—ALWAYS—portray it as a fight between uncaring, tight-fisted legislators and underpaid teachers. It is never portrayed as a tradeoff between underpaid teachers and bloated, often overpaid administrative staff. 

But an argument can be made that ballooning administrative staff is sucking all of the public education money out of the room. 

Benjamin Scafidi of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice recently released an updated version of his paper “The School Staffing Surge.” In the new edition, Scafidi says

From fiscal year (FY) 1950 to FY 2015, the earliest and most recent years with available data, American public schools added full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel at a rate almost four times that of student enrollment growth. These additional personnel were disproportionately non-teachers. While the number of FTE teachers increased almost two and a half times as fast as the increase in students—resulting in significantly smaller class sizes—the number of non-teachers or “all other staff” increased more than seven times the increase in students. 

 

 

Consider Texas. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick claims that only 32 percent of the state’s public school funding actually goes to teachers. 

According to Politifact examined Patrick’s claim and grudgingly conceded the point. The article said there are about 347,000 public school teachers in Texas. By contrast, there are about 69,000 teacher support staff and another 237,000 people who fall broadly into the administrative staff category.  Of course, some of that funding goes to facilities, equipment, etc. 

But the point is there is nearly one administrative staff person for every teacher in Texas 

Administrative staff is necessary, especially in this heavily regulated age, with constant demands for reports, paperwork and jumping through regulatory hoops to receive education funding. 

But a seven-fold increase in the administrative staff-to-student ratio is ludicrous. Drain the education swamp and teachers might find lots of money available to increase their salaries.


 

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