School Employment Grows at Double the Rate of Enrollment

Last week the Wall Street Journal editorial board noted that “New York public schools added 15,000 teachers between 2000 and 2009, even though enrollment fell by 121,000 students over the same period.” (It was based on a report from the Empire Center for New York State Policy.) It further said, “Teachers unions prefer fewer students per class because it means more dues-paying jobs, but the evidence that it improves academic outcomes is thin.”

It continued, “Between 2001 and 2007, 12 states saw student enrollment fall while teaching staffs grew, according to data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics. And in another half-dozen states, teachers were hired out of all proportion to increased enrollment.”

It concludes, “States raise taxes instead of re-examining enrollment and student needs, which creates a hiring ratchet that leaves states with an ever higher number of teachers, regardless of enrollment.”

So was Kansas one of those 18 states?

Number of certified employees up 4.7 %, mostly in pre-K and “other” teachers

I went to the KSDE web site and found a file. Unfortunately my WordPress skills are rather weak, so I can’t copy the file or an image of it in this space. Instead, you’ll have to go to this address: http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1870 and download the file “Certified Personnel Gen. Info.,” which summarizes five schools years, 2005/06 through 2009/10 inclusive.

Among the point you’ll find in that summary.

  • Total certified employment has increased by 1,892 employees (4.7 percent), from 40,173 to 42,066.
  • “Teachers only”  employment increased by 1,506 employees (4.5 percent), from 33,479 to 34,985.
  • What you might call the “other” category increased by 386, (0.2 percent) from 6,695 to 7,081.

Is there good news in that? Maybe, since most of the teaching was in the teaching category, which includes “Practical Arts/ Vocational Education Teachers, Special Education Teachers, Pre-Kindergarten Teachers, Kindergarten Teachers, Other Teachers, and Reading Specialists/Teachers.”

Jobs that require certification but aren’t considered teachers are:

  • Superintendents and associate or assistant superintendents
  • Administrative assistants
  • Principals and assistant principals
  • Directors or supervisors of special education
  • Directors or supervisors of vocational education
  • Directors or supervisors of health
  • Instructional coordinators and supervisors
  • Other directors and supervisors
  • Other curriculum specialists
  • Library media specialists
  • School counselors
  • Clinical or school psychologists
  • Nurses
  • Speech pathologists
  • Audiologists
  • Social worker services
  • “Others”

Over one-fifth (22 percent) 0f the increases in teachers was due to an increase in the number of pre-K teachers. That, in turn, was likely at least in part the result of the efforts of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to expand the size and scope of the public school industry by having schools teach three and four-year old children. Another large chunk (33 percent) of the increase in teachers came from the increase in “other teachers.” So over half of the increase in teachers (55 percent) came from an increase in the non-traditional teaching staff.

Number of non-certified employees up 10%, driven by teacher aides

What about non-certified employees?

Head back to our friend — http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1870 — and look for the file “Non-certified personnel. Then look for the file “Non-certified personnel general information.” It includes data for 10 years, but for the sake of consistency with certified personnel, I’ll look at just the last five years.

  • The number of non-certified employees has gone up 2,521 in the last five years, or 10 percent. That’s more than double than the number of new certified positions. We’ll find:
  • The number of teachers’ aides is up 76 percent,  split between special education aides (1,364 jobs) and regular classroom aides (594 jobs)
  • “Other transportation personnel” (bus drivers?) is up 112 jobs, or 7 percent.
  • There are 75 fewer jobs (a 9 percent decline) in central administration clerical staff and 25 fewer (5 percent decline) in student services clerical staff, but 61 more (a 3 percent increase) clerical staff jobs in school administration. At first blush, that’s all to the good; administration should be pushed to the school level as much as possible.
  • The number of LPN nurses declined by 79 positions, or 39 percent.
  • Entire new categories of jobs appeared: school resource officers [cops], now standing at 35, and  “parents as teachers” positions, now standing at 216.
  • There are two new categories of technology jobs: Directors (188) and “other” (724)

Number of students up 3%

Finally, what of the number of students? Again, go back to http://www.ksde.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1870, and select “Headcount enrollment (public schools).” Download the file  for 2005-06 and also the one for 2009-10.  Compare the two and you’ll see a difference of 13,288, or an increase of 3 percent.

Evaluation

Are these numbers good or bad? I don’t know for sure, but they suggest a lack of productivity gains. On the other hand, I do think it’s a mistake to fix into law any specific ratio of teachers to non-teachers, or classroom teachers to library aides, or anything else like that. In my idealized world, consumer choice would reign supreme, and schools would compete with each other for students by offering not the same set of programs, but different programs: some with a liberal-arts bent,others with a vocational bent; some have few (perhaps more experience) teachers with larger classes, while others have many (and perhaps less experienced) teachers with smaller classes, and so forth.

Technology has been sold as the cure all for decades: radio was going to revolutionize education. Then TV. Then computers. Now, the Internet. And yet, I hope that a new era of virtual schooling will provide at least some students with truly new opportunities. So the increase in the number of technology personnel isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We’ll have to see if schools use those positions effectively.

I notice that the number of education aides is up greatly. Is that good or bad? Again, it depends. Giving teachers classroom aides lessens their load, and it might be cheaper than hiring new teachers. But has the number of special education students increased dramatically? That’s a question for another day. (Readers, if you have sources, please leave a comment).

  • The number of students has increased 3 percent.
  • The number of certified personnel (teachers only) has gone up 4.5 percent
  • The number of certified personnel has gone up by 4.7 percent.
  • The number of non-certified personnel has gone up 10.2 percent.
  • Total employment has gone up 6 percent.

The “right” number of employees in an given department or function may fluctuate from district to district, but overall, a growth in employment that is double the growth in enrollment is not good.

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