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Professor's study reveals national school staffing surge

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October 29, 2012

Ben ScafidiBen ScafidiDr. Ben Scafidi, professor of economics and director of the Economics of Education Policy Center at Georgia College, has published a new study that shows America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment.

“The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools” report revealed a seven-fold increase in non-teachers and administrators throughout the 50 states and the District of Columbia since 1950.

Although American public schools saw a 96 percent increase in students, the increase in non-teachers and administrators increased 702 percent, according to Scafidi’s study of school personnel that he wrote for nonpartisan organization The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

“Taxpayer resources to public education have increased significantly during the past several decades,” said Scafidi. “However, it appears these resources are not spent in the most efficient ways for students.”

From the report, there is no evidence that the large increases in non-teaching personnel have led to improved academic outcomes for students.

Public education seems to have become top heavy, Scafidi said. 

In Georgia, the number of school personnel increased 80 percent compared to student growth of 41 percent from 1992 to 2009.

“However, locally Baldwin County Public Schools has been relatively efficient in terms of spending on administration,” said Scafidi.

The most disproportionate increases including the following states: 

  • Hawaii: Student enrollment increased 2.7 percent while administrators and other non-teaching staff increased 68.9 percent from fiscal year 1992 to fiscal year 2009;
  • Ohio: Student enrollment increased 1.9 percent compared to a 44.4 percent increase in administrators and other non-teaching personnel during the same period;
  • Minnesota: Student enrollment increased 8.1 percent compared to an increase in administrators and non-teaching personnel of 68.2 percent; and
  • New Hampshire: Student enrollment increased 11.7 percent while administrators and non-teaching personnel increased 80.2 percent.

Although American public schools increased personnel, the data shows that public high school graduation rates peaked around 1970; reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress fell between 1992 and 2008; and math scores were stagnant during that period as well.

“This increase in staffing also has a significant opportunity cost: If non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as student growth and if the relative increase in teachers had been more moderate, public schools across the nation would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend annually.”

The report includes a few effective ways to use the $37.2 billion savings: 

  • Raise every public school teacher’s salary by more than $11,700 per year;
  • Give families of each child in poverty more than $2,600 in cash per child;
  • Provide each child in poverty a voucher worth more than $2,600 to attend the private school of his or her parents’ choice; or
  • Double taxpayer funding for early childhood education.

Most people think American public schools need to improve,” said Scafidi, “and there are solutions to improve student achievement.”

Scafidi worked on this study for a year and a half but has studied education policy for more than 20 years.

Scafidi also is a fellow at The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and director of education policy for the Georgia Community Foundation. He previously served as chair of the state of Georgia’s Charter Schools Commission, education policy adviser to Gov. Sonny Perdue and staff member to Gov. Roy Barnes’ Education Reform Study Commissions.

Scafidi earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame. He earned a master’s degree and doctorate in economics from the University of Virginia.

Visit to read the complete report. Visit for individual state data.

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