One of the most common laments we hear about the public school system is that there’s simply not enough money to go around.
Failing student body? Not enough money.
Dilapidated buildings? Not enough money.
Teacher shortages? Not enough money.
Admittedly there was a time when I believed the same thing. There’s simply not enough money to go around. We can’t fix our schools until more people give up more money.
We’re too greedy!
We could have a healthy debate about “needs” and “fixes”. Maybe we should raise property taxes so we can pay teachers more. Or maybe we should switch to digital texts instead of traditional books. Or maybe we should just make school a Hunger Games style competition where the one winner gets all the educational opportunities and never again has to share a locker.
But let’s leave all that behind, because there are pros and cons to all of those solutions (I stand by my Hunger Games suggestion). Forget the controversy.
What if we could inject $27 billion dollars every single year into public school systems across the country right now? What would you do with that money if it were yours to evenly distribute. What would you do?
This isn’t a snarky writer’s “Hunger Games” joke. This is a real figure that could have been a real boon to our education system but for the current state of bloated bureaucracy.
The problem is precisely this – while student enrollment, staff and teachers have surged over the last 20 years, school administration (the only people who don’t set foot in a classroom) has surged astronomically. The growth of distant administrative roles has been so rapid and so large that it has absorbed an astonishing amount of tax dollars every year.
Don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at some numbers provided by the Department of Education itself.
From 1950 to 2009 the overall student population in America increased by 96%. Teaching staff increased by 252%. Support staff – that includes every employee inside a school who is not a teacher – increased by 386%. Administrative staff – that means anyone who works for a department outside of the school – increased by 702%. *These statistics can be found at the US Department of Education and the Ed Choice report for School Choice Outcomes
From 1992 to 2009 alone student population only increased by 19% while teaching staff increased by 28% and administrative by 45%.
These numbers are striking for several reasons, not the least of which is that of all the staff associated with running an education program the group with the lowest rate of increase were teachers – the only ones in this scenario actually responsible for a classroom full of young minds and their direct conduit to an education.
Its unconscionable that we hear no end to the complaints about teacher shortages and poor teacher pay and then sink unfathomable amounts of money into paper pushers while our teachers continue to struggle in the classroom. If the entire point of a public education is to teach children, why are we spending more money on the people who never see one student during their workday?
Some people might say that all those administrators are necessary to navigate a growing education system. I imagine most people saying that are probably administrators themselves. However, there is no proof that the spending spree in staff and administrative services has helped public education in any way. Graduation rates at this moment in time are roughly about the same as they were in 1970.
Its not helping.
But here is where all that money I was talking about earlier comes into play. Recognizing that every employee of the education system only exists to support the educated, if teacher/staff and administrative hires were balanced to directly match the growth of the student population the American public education system could save $27.1 billion dollars a year.
What could we do with $27 billion dollars every single year? We could give ever teacher in America an $8700 raise.
Every single year.
We could provide $8000 in scholarships to private schools to 3.4 million students currently trapped in failing districts.
Every single year.
We could reduce property taxes (thereby giving poor Americans a greater opportunity to afford home ownership in a good school district).
Every single year.
When I look at these numbers I see a pyramid, with the children at the bottom. Our education system has become a job creation machine at the expense of the welfare of our children. They are the ones who should be the top of the pyramid. Everyone else should be holding them up.
This is a large reason I am a huge supporter of school choice. Our public education dollars have been grossly mishandled and there’s been no real oversight to this travesty of justice. Our children deserve better. Allowing parents to choose where their child goes to school put the kids back on top of the pyramid and forces the base to readjust.
Its time for a major readjustment in this country when it comes to public education. We are failing our kids in the worst possible way – we are stealing their right to educational equality in the name of greed.