By Tom Steward/Watchdog.org-Minnesota Bureau
ST. PAUL — A quick true or false pop quiz based on a surprising new education study provides some clues to why K-12 public school funding constitutes the biggest line item in Minnesota’s state budget again this year.
1: Minnesota public schools employ more administrators and other non-teaching staff than classroom teachers.
True. Minnesota public schools employ 3,000 more non-classroom staff than teachers.
2: The growth in non-teaching staff has outpaced the increase in students by more than 50 percent.
True. While the student population increased by eight percent, the growth rate of non-teaching personnel exploded by 68 percent between 1992-2009.
3: Minnesota schools could pay their teachers more with the cost savings from “extra” non-teaching staff.
True. Classroom teachers could earn $15,000 more every year with the savings.
Those answers put Minnesota in a class of 21 states flagged as “top-heavy” in the number of non-teaching staff employed in public schools in a new report, “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II.”
“We have increased employment in public schools at a much greater rate than the increase in students, and the most disconcerting part of that trend is that we’ve hired more administrators and other staff than teachers,” said Ben Scafidi, author of the report for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.
Minnesota public schools have put 20,000 more “non-teaching personnel” on the payroll than the number needed to keep pace with the growth in students between 1992-2009, according to the analysis of data reported by state schools to the US Department of Education. Overall, non-teaching staff outnumbers teachers in the state’s public schools by about 3,000 employees.
While the K-12 student population in Minnesota public schools increased by 8 percent in the period studied, the growth rate of non-teaching personnel such as administrators, bus drivers, librarians, classroom aides and others surged by 68 percent to about 56,000 employees.
“That’s a startling fact and I think it would surprise most people, but it wouldn’t surprise public school teachers. They’ll tell you this has been going on for a long time,” said Scafidi.
The cost for the “extra” non-classroom employees totals $803 million per year in Minnesota, based on the report’s calculations. The added costs break down to $24,000 for every classroom of 25 students. Put another way, if the $803 million was paid to classroom educators, each public school teacher in Minnesota would receive an average annual salary increase of about $15,000.
“States could do much more constructive things with those kind of dollars,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. “State leaders could be permitting salary increases for great teachers, offering children in failing schools the option of attending a private school, or directing savings toward other worthy purposes. Instead, states have allowed these enormous bureaucracies to grow.”
The report estimates the states could have saved $24 billion per year by containing the growth in non-teaching staff to the same level at the growth in students. Texas was rated as the state with the most “extra” public school employees, with 160,000 non-teaching personnel above the corresponding increase in students at an annual cost of more than $6 billion.
Contact Tom Steward at [email protected]