Study Reveals U.S. Schools Used To Do More With Less

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Since the 1950s, public schools in the United States have seen their administrative rosters swell more than sevenfold, while their success at educating students has proportionately declined.

That fact, likely intuited by many who remember an era when American education was a lot more personal and a lot less bureaucratic, was revealed last month in Part Two of an ongoing study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

Entitled “The School Staffing Surge,” the report notes that faculty employment numbers have so greatly exceeded the growth in public schools’ overall student population that schools seem now as equally obligated to cater to teacher demands as they are required to educate students.

Between 1950 and 2009, the number of public school children attending grades K-12 grew by 96 percent, while the number of full-time employees at public schools grew by 386 percent.

Amazingly, the study learned that “administrators and other non-teaching staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students” during that same time period.

At the same time, the study found that kids haven’t benefited in proportion with that kind of increase in teachers and administrators:

[T]he increases in public school employment since 1992 do not appear to have had any positive returns to students as measured by test scores and graduation rates. Some likely will try to cherry-pick an individual state and point out that a particular measure of student achievement increased at the same time that public school employment grew dramatically; however, such an approach is misleading because, across all states, public school employment surged, while student achievement did not measurably increase. If student achievement increased in a certain state, why did it not increase—or why did it decrease—in other states when public school employment increased?

…One should ask whether the significant resources used to finance employment increases could have been spent better elsewhere.

Friedman Institute fellow Benjamin Scafidi, who authored the report, called for a new approach (or, perhaps, a return to old ones) in revising the inefficient and still-accelerating administrative bloat in public education, noting the “burden of proof is now on those who still want to maintain or even increase the dramatically larger staffing levels in public schools.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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