About 200 school districts in Oklahoma and schools in 21 counties in Kentucky were closed Monday as teachers refused to show up in protest for pay raises, additional school funding, or to protest changes to pension plans. Oklahoma teachers have been threatening this strike for weeks, telling lawmakers that they wanted a $10,000 raise over the next three years and a $200 million state investment in schools.
Here in Northampton, School Administrator Eddie Lawrence has also petitioned the Board of Supervisors for more money to pay teachers and staff.
While teachers may want more money from the school system, is there any left to give?
According to a new study, The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach, the ranks of non-teachers – such as administrators, counselors, teacher aides and cafeteria workers – has swelled 130 percent since 1970 and they now make up 50 percent of all public school employees.
Looking at data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that the growth of non-teaching staff has greatly outpaced student growth over the past four decades.
From 1970 to 2010, the number of students grew by 8.6 percent, while the number of non-teaching personnel increased by 130 percent. Non-teachers now consume over a quarter of all education expenditures, the study found. In addition, America now spends a greater percentage of its education funding on non-teachers than any other country in the world besides Denmark.
A previous study from the Friedman Foundation, The School Staffing Surge, found that “states could have saved more than $24 billion annually if they had increased/decreased the employment of administrators and other non-teaching staff at the same rate as students between 1992 and 2009.”
Some states have a much higher ratio of non-teaching employees per student than others. In Virginia, the state has 104 non-teachers per every 1,000 students.
There is a reason for the increase in non-teacher staff.
The largest increase in non-teacher positions was for teacher aides, employees who work in the classroom to give students individual attention, often children with special needs.
The passage of laws like the Disabilities Education Act and the Bilingual Education Act in the 1970’s significantly contributed to a higher need for teachers aides. The Fordham study found that a higher number of teacher aides generally corresponds with a greater presence of children with individualized education plans(IEPs).
The Fordham study also notes that “during roughly the same period, schools were further burdened with obligations to provide special programs and services for youngsters with drug issues, health challenges, sex-and-sometimes-pregnancy activity, homelessness, and a host of discipline and family challenges.”