The rate of employment among administrators and non-teaching staff has increased more than three times the rate of increase in student enrollment in Idaho during the period 1992 to 2009, according to an Indiana-based nonprofit organization.
In a report released this week, “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth In America’s Public Schools,” Benjamin Scafidi, Ph.D, associate professor of economics and director of the Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College & State University, says that between 1950 and 2009 America’s public schools have seen a 96 percent increase in student enrollment, while the employment of non-teaching personnel has increased by 702 percent. Teaching staff, meanwhile, increased 252 percent across the country.
In Idaho, student enrollment increased 21.9 percent between 1992 and 2009, while administrative and non-teaching employment increased 73.2 percent. The report was published by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, a nationwide nonprofit organization headquartered in Indiana.
State Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, told IdahoReporter.com that “the reality in schools today is homelessness, hunger, deep poverty, physical and/or mental abuses, learning disabilities and so on. A child who comes to school hungry or afraid is not prepared to learn. This requires services beyond the classroom.”
While Scafidi’s report acknowledges that rates of living with one parent have increased dramatically among American schoolchildren during the past half-century, it also notes that during this same time period American students have lived with “higher income, better educated parents and fewer siblings” than previous generations of American students.
Scafidi indicates that despite these improved conditions for students, and despite the increases in non-teaching personnel and per-pupil spending, academic achievement has in many cases declined around the country.
The release of Scafidi’s report touched off discussions about Idaho’s Students Come First laws, one of which requires local school districts to publish data about their expenditures and budgets on their websites, in the name of transparency.
Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, told IdahoReporter.com that “the statistics are interesting and worthy of study,” whereas Stennett noted, “I am sure that the Friedman Foundation is not an unbiased source.”
Friedman Foundation spokesperson Jeff Reed responded that “we certainly desire that all schools serve the interests of their students. But the facts speak for themselves. The data on student enrollment and school employment is taken from the U.S. Department of Education, which in turn collects this data from the states.”
Burgoyne also noted to IdahoReporter.com that "Idaho schools overperform their budgets, meaning we get more educational bang for the amount we spend.” According to the U.S. Department of Education, Idaho’s fourth and eighth grade students when tested in 2003 and 2009 do have higher scores than the national average.
In 2003, Idaho fourth graders had a reading average score, 218, that was one point higher than the national average. By 2009, Idaho scores had improved to 221, again one point higher than the national average.
Idaho eighth graders in 2003 had a reading average score of 264, three points higher than the national average. Six years later, in 2009, those scores had improved a point to 265, again three points higher than the national average of 262.
The rankings are similar with math scores for fourth and eighth graders.
In 2003, Idaho fourth graders scored 235, one point higher than the national average. But the gap widened in math by 2009 with Idaho pupils scoring two points higher (241) than the national average.
The math score for Idaho eighth graders in 2003 was 280, four points higher than the national average. Six years later the Idaho average was 287, which was five points above the national average.
One state legislator, however, is concerned just where education dollars should be going compared to where they are actually spent.
“This report blows a hole in the theory that more taxpayer money pumped into the public education system will result in more teachers and better student performance,” Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, told IdahoReporter.com. “Perhaps we should begin requiring school districts to publish breakdowns of their staffing as well,” he added.