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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

How Texas Could Give Teachers A Big Raise Without Costing Taxpayers Anything  

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D.   July 14, 2017     Published by Dallas Morning News

On July 18th the Texas Legislature convenes for a special session to address 20 items, one of which is a $1000 pay raise for teachers.

Education spending represents a major chunk of each state’s budget, bloated with the usual unnecessary layers of government bureaucracy.  In a 2012 Congressional testimony Neal McClusky with the CATO Institute stated, “Our public schools have been on a decades-long hiring binge with ultimately no gains to show for it.”  

In May 2017, EdChoice – formerly the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice – released its updated report on “Back to the Staffing Surge:  The Great Teacher Salary Stagnation and the Decades Long Employment Growth in American Public Schools.”

This study finds that, for 65 years, American public education has been on a binge of hiring employees that far exceeds the increases needed to keep pace with student enrollment growth. Using U.S. Department of Education statistics, the study categorized the data into two areas of employment growth:  teachers and all other staff.  “All others” included district and school administrators, teacher aides, counselors, social workers, reading and math coaches, janitors, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and curriculum specialists.

The initial staffing surge occurred from the 1950s through 1992 because schools began to admit special needs students and to implement racial integration. But the staffing surge has continued even after the initial 42-year period ended in 1992. This modern surge has been expensive for taxpayers, with no gains to show for it.

Although there was a 27 percent nationwide increase in per-pupil spending after 1992, the money was spent primarily for hiring non-teachers.  Teacher salaries actually decreased by two percent.

During the Great Recession from 2009 to 2012, there was a staffing retreat with a resumption in the staffing surge in 2012.  The study notes that, “If public school staffing was very important to student outcomes, we would have expected to see declines in student outcomes during the staffing retreat. Those declines did not come, as American public schools did not experience a decline in measured student outcomes when its staffing decreased.”

Between 1950 and 2015 the number of students in American public schools  doubled.  In comparing the increase in the number of students with the increase in staffing,

  • All full time staffing increased four times, 
  • Teaching staff increased two and a half times, and
  • All other staff increased more than seven times.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on a nationwide basis, state governments collectively spend around 30 percent of their budgets on education.

In Texas, education is the largest expenditure for the 2016-2017 fiscal year -- 37.6 percent of all spending. Between 1992 and 2014, Texas public school teacher salaries have increased only one percent while per pupil spending has increased 17 percent.

The study concludes that, had the national increase in the number of all other staff kept pace with student enrollment growth between 1992 and 2015, American public schools would have saved $34.9 billion annually.

The study suggests two uses for this annual savings of nearly $35 billion:

  • Give teachers an additional $11,128 per year, or
  • Fund education savings accounts (ESAs) with $8,000 annually for nearly 4.4  million students to offset the cost of private school tuition.

According to the study, had the increase in the number of all other staff kept pace with student enrollment growth between 1992 and 2015, Texas would have saved $2 billion.  This could have paid for a permanent increase in teacher salaries of $6,318.

The elite send their children to private schools that shun computerized learning in favor of excellent teachers. Texas is swiftly implementing computerized learning to save on teachers salaries, yet we continue to fund millions for unnecessary non-teaching bureaucracy.  Given growing public anger, Texas lawmakers need to rethink how they are using taxpayers money for public education.

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