Do we really need to hire more teachers and adminstrators?

The candidates for President have different strategies for dealing with education and visions of the role of  the federal government in public schools. President Obama has stated that he wants the federal government to hire more math and science teachers. Governor Romney says the decision on hiring teachers is best made at the state and local levels. Who is right? A new study sheds light on the hiring of teachers and administrators since 1992.

The findings show states have consistently hired more teachers and administrators, far outpacing the growth in student population.

According to Dr. Benjamin Scafidi’s November 2012 study The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools“Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent—more than 7 times the increase in students.”

America has more teachers than ever in the classroom and more administrators overseeing them.

Dr. Scafidi’s research found, “[I]f student growth had matched that of non-teaching personnel from 1992 to 2009 and if the teaching force had only grown 1.5 times faster than the pupil enrollment, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year—the equivalent of an $11,700 a year increase in salary for every American public school teacher.”

According to the study from 1992 to 2009 Florida had an increase in student population of 33% with total school personnel increasing by 55%. From 1992 to 2009 teachers increased by 70% and administrators and other staff increased by 41%. 

In 2002, Floridians approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that set limits on the number of students in core classes (Math, English, Science, etc.) in the state’s public schools. The class size amendment took effect in the 2010-2011 school year. It appears this amendment was ill advised as the number of teachers to pupils doubled despite the amendment.

The costs to meet Florida’s class size Constitutional mandates are negatively impacting overall education funding at the district level.

Dr. Scafidi states:

However, parents, other citizens, and policymakers may want to cast a wider net in looking for opportunities to improve the education offered to students. In contrast to the static student achievement in public schools (despite massive increases in taxpayer funding), school choice programs have a good track record. All forms of enhanced school choice tried in the U.S. have led to an improvement in academic outcomes—in just one case was there no effect—for those who remain in public schools. The most recent empirical study on that topic, by Figlio and Hart (2010),33 shows ‘evidence that public schools subject to more competitive pressure from private schools raised their test scores the most following the introduction of Florida’s program.’ They found that the greater the competition for Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program, the larger the benefits to Florida public school students. [Emphasis mine]

Florida has been a national leader in providing parents with school choice options.

According the the Department of Education website, “Florida’s A+ Education Plan was the impetus for policies and programs that thrust Florida into the spotlight as a national leader in providing parents and students with a wide array of school choice options directed to meet individual learning needs and styles.” Among these choices is charter schools.

According to the Florida DOE, “Charter schools are public schools of choice. They are very popular—and among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. Charter schools are largely free to innovate, and often provide more effective programs and choice to diverse groups of students. Since 1996, the number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 400 in 2010. Charter school student enrollment has grown well over 175,000 students.” For statistics on Florida charter schools click here.

Offering school choice options, particularly opening charter schools, remains in the hands of local school boards.

Sarasota County, Florida has been a leader in providing charter school options for public school students. The numbers of students enrolled in Sarasota County charter schools has gone from 1,807 in 2004-2005 to 5,728 in 2012-2013, an increase of 300%. At the same time the number of teachers, administrators and support personnel have all declined. Sarasota County is doing more with less, yet remains one of the top districts in Florida on FCAT scores.

The ratio of growth in teachers and administrators nation wide continues to outpace student growth. Florida is no exception but has experienced less of it compared to other states such as Hawaii and Ohio.  According to Table 2 – Comparing the Increase of Students to the Increase in Public School Employment, FY 1992 to FY 2009, Delaware, Florida and California are tied for third lowest with a ratio of growth of  1.5.

The demand by parents for charter schools is increasing. Does this study show that teacher quantity is not a factor but teacher quality is?