By William Newell

When you think of a school, you probably imagine classrooms filled with students and teachers, not employee offices. The reality is that highly compensated administrators and non-teaching support staff outnumber Oregon’s K-12 teachers.

The growth of administrative and non-teaching support staff has more than tripled that of students and teachers since 1992. In the last 21 years, the student population has grown by only 15.4 percent and teachers by only 12.7 percent. At the same time, the ranks of administrators and non-teaching support staff have grown by a staggering 47.3 percent.

The growth in staff hasn’t improved student achievement. Oregon fourth and eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores in math and reading have regressed to or fallen below the national average. In 2013, Oregon received a “C” from Education Week and a “D-” from StudentsFirst, two respected education research organizations.

Rudy Crew, Oregon’s recently departed chief education officer, abused his spending privileges and did little to improve Oregon schools, ultimately showing the top-heavy system’s main flaws. Sadly, the top education bureaucrat’s $280,000 salary and gold-plated benefits package are just the tip of the education iceberg.

If administrative and support employment had grown in line with students, Oregon could have saved more than $300 million annually or hired almost 3,782 teachers compensated at $80,000 each.* Going forward, schools must refocus their priorities back on the classroom and away from the education bureaucracy.

*Teacher compensation was calculated by taking the average Oregon K-12 teacher salary of $57,000 plus 40% for benefits.

William Newell is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank.

3 thoughts on “Tip of the Education Iceberg

  1. If you look at it objectively, children are very poorly paid workers and need to be unionized to achieve a ‘learning wage’ to coin a phrase.
    The power is already in the hands of children because if they performed a sick out strike, then the school loses their money allotment which is per diem.
    The money for the child achievement bonus program set up by the student union would come from the fat, creamy administrative layer.
    The students would get a big bonus of $1,000 for a 4.0, etc.
    Would it not be fun to watch the lefties jam up as unions fight!
    What do you think?

  2. The state and federal government are largely to blame for the growth in bureaucratic administrative positions in school districts. Every year new programs are put in place to help improve the schools. Each one comes with requirements to write grants, document results, create budgets, report on expenditures, disseminate information, enforce compliance, create reports, etc. This then necessitates promoting one or more people out of the classroom to run the program. Programs like Special Education and Title 1 require many non-classroom people and lots of meetings which distract teachers and administrators from their real jobs of instruction. Charter schools save a lot of costs by simply not having enough people to do all those wonderful programs and fill those administrative functions. Amazingly, students still seem to learn just as much (or more) than in schools with all these extra programs run by these expensive administrators.

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