| April 8, 2013

Overhead growth not helping students, taxpayers

For many years OCPA has drawn attention to the excessive bureaucratic overhead in Oklahoma’s public education system. Indeed, the system has nearly as many non-teachers as teachers.

“The bureaucracy is now so big,” Dr. Greg Forster recently pointed out, “it takes up half the system.”

In a new report, “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools, Part II,” economist Benjamin Scafidi points out that between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of public school students in Oklahoma grew 10 percent, while the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff grew 28 percent—nearly three times greater than the increase in students. (Members of the education establishment often remind us that they have “fixed costs,” but that bar on the right side of the graph doesn’t look fixed to me.)

Unsurprisingly (to readers of this blog, anyway), “the increases in public school employment since 1992 do not appear to have had any positive returns to students as measured by test scores and graduation rates,” Dr. Scafidi writes. “One should ask whether the significant resources used to finance employment increases could have been spent better elsewhere.”

Indeed, if the increase in bureaucratic overhead had simply mirrored the increase in students, the annual cost savings would exceed $229 million. That’s money Oklahoma’s political leaders could have used to cut taxes, improve our roads and bridges, or do any number of things—including raising teacher salaries by $4,924.

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