New Study Looks at Growth of Non-Teaching Personnel
Sparkly, purple, and lined with a shiny metal band, my retainer was wrapped in a napkin while I ate my school lunch throughout elementary school. “Don’t you lose that retainer,” I can still hear my mother saying. Inevitably, I lost it at lunch, and I knew there was only one place it could be.
Inside the trash can, remnants of sloppy joes and sour milk splattered the edges of the bag. A cafeteria worker, realizing what had happened, pulled the trash out and began to dig. “Here you go,” he said and returned the retainer to me.
I recalled the cafeteria worker who helped me find my retainer after I read Fordham Institute Research Analyst Matt Richmond’s report, The Hidden Half: School Employees Who Don’t Teach.
The report’s findings are startling. Over the past 60 years, schools have increased non-teaching personnel positions by 702 percent. It also found the U.S. spends more than double what Korea, Mexico, Finland, Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg, Austria, and Spain spend on non-teaching staff salaries and benefits.
As the study’s title, and my own personal vignette, suggests, these workers are both seemingly underappreciated and overlooked. We know little about the non-teaching part of the education industry, except that it has grown at a much faster rate than students. One study showed that if non-teaching personnel grew at the same rate as the student population, American public schools would have an additional $24.3 billion annually.
This is not to say that schools would be better off with less non-teaching personnel, but if Missouri schools want to get serious about spending efficiently, then collecting specific data on non-teaching staff is a good place to start.