Administrative Bloat In K-12 Education
Yesterday, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice released a new paper on the Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools. This paper may help explain a previous post I wrote on Missouri’s education system. As I noted, our state’s educational system is suffering from a case of Baumol’s disease. Because teaching is a labor-intensive industry (although it may not have to be), there is a tendency for the cost to rise without corresponding increases in achievement.
As the chart below shows, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has increased almost 40 percent since 1992, but student achievement has essentially been flat.
The Friedman study addresses one of the reasons spending has increased so dramatically: the number of individuals that schools employ, and not just teachers. From 1950 to 2009, the total number of students in U.S. schools increased by 96 percent. During the same time period, the percentage of teachers increased 252 percent and the number of administrators increased by 702 percent!
State figures do not go back as far as the national ones, but we do have accurate data from 1992 to 2009. During that time period, Missouri saw an increase of 8.9 percent in the student population. Consequently, there was a 29.2 percent increase in the number of teachers and a 34.5 percent increase in the number of administrators and non-teaching staff. This all occurred during a period of time when the number of school districts declined in Missouri from 4,891 in 1952 to less than 580 now. One would presume that that would lead to a decrease in the number of administrators required, though it is possible many of those consolidated districts had only one teacher and zero administrators.
What have we received from our increased spending and this “administrative bloat,” as Jay Greene calls it? Essentially nothing; student achievement scores remain flat.
Some are calling for raising Missouri’s tobacco taxes to increase spending for education. Of course the claims that those funds will actually accumulate are somewhat dubious, but setting that aside, we must realize that the problem with our education system is not simply a lack of money or a lack of teachers. The problem is a lack of innovation.