While there's truth to that narrative, there's another narrative concerning the cost of public education that's not being told. The subject of this narrative is the cost that federal regulations have tacked onto the cost of public education when, constitutionally speaking, public education is a right reserved to the states.
FACT: 25% of education expenditures are directed to non-teacher salaries and benefits.
A report published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute higlights how school staffing changed since the 1970s:
- Since 1970, staffing in general has increased 84%, that is from 3.4M to 6.2M.
- Much of that growth since 1970 is attributable to the expansion of non-teaching positions (1.8M in additional non-teaching staff). Concurrently, 1.1M new teachers were added.
- During the past four decades, the ratio of students to staff dropped to 8:1. In 1970, it was 14:1.
The additional 1.8M non-teaching staff include: librarians, janitors, superintendents, and guidance counselors. But, the lion's share are "instructional aides." In 1970, these comprised 1.7% of all staff. In 2013, they constituted 12% of all public school staff. Moreover, in the 1980s, the share of teachers as a percentage of public school staff dropped from 60% to 52.4% while the percentage of instructional aides grew to 7.8% of all staff.
The report attributes this change to the federal regulations of the 1970s and early 1980s which added new responsibilities for schools. For example:
- A 1968 law aimed at creating English programs for bilingual students.
- The 1975 mandate requiring education for children with handicaps and learning disorders.
- Additional new obligations to provide services for students with drug problems.
While the United States spends a much larger portion of education budgets on non-teachers than all member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (with the exception of Denmark), the report's conclusion--that school boards evaluate their staffs and determine whether positions are necessary or whether certain services could be provided more efficiently--is off the mark.
Necessary as that is, there's a more important, a priori constitutional issue. The federal government has extended its tentacles around what's reserved to the states to decide for themselves--in this case, public education. Issuing regulations that the states must pay to implement "puts the cart before the horse." What's happened since 1970 is that the federal government is not supporting states but dictating to states how the are to educate young people.
This encroachment upon states rights by the federal government is the issue that needs to be addressed by those who care about public education in the United States.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the Thomas B. Fordham Institute report, click on the following link:
"The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don't Teach."