Union leader agrees that federal bailout of $208 million not needed to save teachers' jobs

August 31, 2010

In Saturday's Seattle Times, teacher's union president Mary Lindquist says Senator Murray's federal bailout of $208 million is needed, not to protect teachers' jobs, but to protect the jobs of counselors, nurses, bus drivers, janitors and administrative assistants.

She is right. In public education, nonteaching jobs have become more important than teaching jobs. My research shows that public schools in Washington now hire more non-teachers than teachers. Statewide, only 47% of public school employees are classroom teachers.

School districts have been on a hiring binge. The Washington State Data Book shows that between 1998 and 2008, Washington's student enrollment increased by only 3%. Over this period of time, schools increased by 22% the number of "Support Staff," counselors, nurses, psychologists, and administrative assistants. They increased by 13% the number of "Classified staff," secretaries, janitors, and bus drivers. The number of teachers increased by 9%.

In fact, as I show in my analysis here, hiring patterns closely track increases and decreases in tax revenue collections by the state, unrelated to increases or decreases in student enrollment.

Yet, despite this explosion in hiring, student outcomes remain disappointingly flat. Schools are failing to prepare two-thirds of our students for their futures.

Schools exist to teach students, not provide comfortable public sector jobs to non-teachers. We need to be reducing, not protecting or adding non-teaching positions.

This new federal bail-out will achieve nothing for students, but it will certainly help protect school district budgets continuing to pour valuable resources outside the classroom.


divorced from reality

Have you been in a school recently, Liv? Teachers are dealing with a whole range of issues that lie beyond readin', writin', and 'rithmatic. Kids with learning disabilities. Physical disabilities. Difficult home lives. Arriving at school hungry b/c they get no breakfast. Arriving at school tired because they care for a younger sibling while mom and dad work two shifts a day on minimum wage.

Do ya think those issues affect them at school? They do. Do ya think maybe school is a good place to help those kids? It is. Unless of course you'd prefer taxpayers go the expense of building a whole nother set of buildings for kids to visit with those counselors, nurses, and psychologists. Or maybe you'd prefer we just let those kids sink or swim, so we can build prisons for them later?