Report: Growth in Hiring Grossly Outpaces Student Enrollment

A new report from The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has detailed an alarming trend in education hiring: the number of new teacher and administrators hired between the years of 1950 and 2009 dramatically outpaced the growth in the number of students, as the student population increased by 96% while full-time school employees grew 386%.

By analyzing the data from the U.S. Department of Education, author Benjamin Scafidi concluded that while schools now educate roughly double then number of students they did in the 1950s, the number of administrators hired to oversee their instruction grew by more than 700%. Furthermore, while districts are spending more money than they ever did on non-teaching personnel, they are gaining hardly any benefits from the money. Standardized test scores and graduation rates haven’t gone up anywhere near an equivalent rate.

The rate of growth in hiring has escalated since the 1970s, when the number of students went up by only about 8% while the number of teachers hired to instruct them rose by 60%. Over the same period, the number of non-teaching positions increased by 138%.

That hiring pattern has persisted in more recent years as well. This report analyzes the rise in public school personnel relative to the increase in students since FY 1992. Analyses are provided for the nation as a whole and for each state.

Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.

While the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act worked to slow down the rate of hire for non-teaching positions, the subgroup increased at still more than double the growth rate of student enrollment. Since President George W. Bush signed NCLB into law, student enrollment grew by 3%, while both teacher and non-teacher hiring grew by 7%.

As more adults gain employment in public schools, there is no evidence their numbers are leading to improved academic outcomes for students. And this increase in staffing has a significant opportunity cost. If non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as the growth in students and if the teaching force had grown “only” 1.5 times as fast as the growth in students, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year.

The report lists some of the ways that these savings could have been used, including raising teacher salaries by more than $11,000 per year, on average, and more than doubling the funding for early childhood education.