Tip of the Education Iceberg

Photo Credit: Photostock/Freedigitalphotos.net

Photo Credit: Photostock/Freedigitalphotos.net

By William Newell

When you think of a school, you probably imagine classrooms filled with students and teachers, not employee offices. The reality is that highly compensated administrators and non-teaching support staff outnumber Oregon’s K-12 teachers.

The growth of administrative and non-teaching support staff has more than tripled that of students and teachers since 1992. In the last 21 years, the student population has grown by only 15.4 percent and teachers by only 12.7 percent. At the same time, the ranks of administrators and non-teaching support staff have grown by a staggering 47.3 percent.

The growth in staff hasn’t improved student achievement. Oregon fourth and eighth grade National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores in math and reading have regressed to or fallen below the national average. In 2013, Oregon received a “C” from Education Week and a “D-” from StudentsFirst, two respected education research organizations.

Rudy Crew, Oregon’s recently departed chief education officer, abused his spending privileges and did little to improve Oregon schools, ultimately showing the top-heavy system’s main flaws. Sadly, the top education bureaucrat’s $280,000 salary and gold-plated benefits package are just the tip of the education iceberg.

If administrative and support employment had grown in line with students, Oregon could have saved more than $300 million annually or hired almost 3,782 teachers compensated at $80,000 each.* Going forward, schools must refocus their priorities back on the classroom and away from the education bureaucracy.

*Teacher compensation was calculated by taking the average Oregon K-12 teacher salary of $57,000 plus 40% for benefits.

William Newell is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Education | Tagged , , , | 27 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    In the Portland Public School District by comparison, the average teacher compensation (wages plus benefits) is nearly $95k per year as of the 2012-2013 school year, per PPS approved budget document for the 2012-2013 school year. Benefits do not just add 40% to wages, but rather 55% per the just now expiring teachers union labor rate schedule. A majority of PPS teachers are at the highest wage rate of $73k per year, putting their total compensation at over $100k. The PPS school board starts negotiations with the teachers union this round not at zero so as to bring their total teacher compensation back in line with other teachers around the state and other professionals, but by offering 1% per year Colas and I believe additional step increases which most teachers might automatically receive. The PPS teachers union is seeking 3.5% Colas, almost twice the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index, and step increases.
    PPS administrators got into the self enrichment play, too, by allocating themselves $1.5 million in bonuses for the upcoming school year, making for maybe a $15k boost in their pay.
    PPS could inject some fiscal discipline by starting negotiations at a freeze (would result in more teacher hires as the PPS budget could be spread farther), in a gradual effort to bring its teacher compensation costs back in line with competitive rates (from the taxpayer’s point of view). But then it would face a strike, and the Teachers union must laugh among themselves at such a prospect. All the union has to do is dial up the reminders it holds Portland’s children captive to its demands. Portlanders’ willingness to stand up to the union holding their children hostage would melt faster than a popsicle on a 100 plus degree day in July. (an appropriate cartoon pictures the union thug saying: “nice kid you got there; You want him to get an education don’t you?”) The PPS board could try to interject some competition to weaken the teachers union bargaining position, by getting behind the addition of charter schools and more freely allowing transfers. But PPS administration and board do exactly the opposite and fight educational alternatives. PPS is on a slow but steady demise, and unfortunately, there’s nothing much to do but watch it get more bloated while advancing educational technology eats away at its domain. Right-to-work might help speed the re-invention of Portland education. Heaven knows Kitzhaber’s lets-do-more-of-the-same-only-bigger-routine is a Rudy-Crew-like-circling-the-drain disappointment (and a costly one, too).

  • JackLordGod

    As a nation we spend an absolute fortune on education. At roughly the equal of the defense department budget, and exceeding per pupil expenditure of almost every other nation on the planet, for all this money we get sub par results.

    It is simply impossible to run the numbers on an average classroom with an average teacher pay and not come away awe struck with big questions as to where the rest of the money goes.

    If the exact same numbers for teacher pay and classroom size were laid out to a liberal, but schools were a private contractor paid through tax dollars the left would be up in arms. “Where are the evil profits that these evil corporations running our schools going?”. Try it some time, I often do. Often I will claim I am describing a worker retraining company, the lay out the scenario using average teacher pay and average classroom size with per pupil expenditure. When I explain that I was not in reality describing a rip off worker retraining program but the average classroom in Oregon most are shocked by the figures.

    Do liberals even care about or want better schools? Of course. Liberals have kids too. If they have money, liberals run to private schools for their kids. If they don’t then public schools it is. However regardless of the liberal, you better believe that even those who send their kids to private school want to maintain the government stranglehold on public education. Maintaining the orthodoxy is paramount, even when you make sure to keep your own kids from having to face the consequences of that belief system.

    • Jack, thanks for the suggestion to present the real public school numbers disguised as a private contractor situation. I would love to see how quickly certain state legislators introduced a bill to recover the “excess profit” and return it to taxpayers.

      • 3H

        Except.. under Rupert’s scenario, there is no excess money left over for profit. It’s a shell game that has no bearing on reality.

        I’m surprised that the people he pulls this on just don’t laugh at him.

        • JackLordGod

          You are maintaining there is not massive overhead in the school system?

          Wow – You have your work cut out for you on that one.

          PS – It’s kind of flattering you follow me to such an extent you pair my nickname with my real name. Thanks!

          • 3H

            It’s kind of flattering you follow me to such an extent you pair my nickname with my real name. Thanks!

            LOL.. wow.. kind of full of yourself aren’t you? Jack Lord God.. Rupert in Springfield.. same person. That’s been obvious from the very beginning, and I’m not sure what you meant about following you??

            As for the high overhead, I wasn’t commenting on that, I was commenting on your comparison of a private worker retraining company with public schools- which presumably are sufficiently different enough to defy much comparison. Why the subterfuge when it doesn’t even really make a point?

          • JackLordGod

            OK – So you can’t really defeat my argument. Let’s just agree that any private contractor running the kind of overhead the public schools do would be condemed as a total rip off by the left. I know it, you know it, call it good there.

            Anyhoo, thanks for following me as you do, your comments don’t really add much to the discussion, but their inanity is fairly amusing.

          • 3H

            I thought I would simply respond to inanity with inanity… I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable. 😉

  • Christine

    As a teacher I can’t tell you how important support and admin staff are. I work directly with 75 students in the three classes I teach each day for almost 5 .5 total hours. We’re it not for the efforts of my aide, my special Ed assistant, and my counselor friend I could possible keep up with all I am tasked to do.
    And I only make 70,000 a year, not the higher amount you are saying. Plus, I am a professional and deserve a living wage. My contact days with students are now at 171, and believe me, those days are full of work. Also, I need the salary I have to save for retirement as PERS is not going to help me that much. It looks like I might only get about 4k a month, which is not going to be enough.
    So, I am saving into 403 b account, which takes away from my take home pay.
    Thus, this whole article is meaningless and should be taken down.

    • thevillageidiot

      you missed the whole point of the article. being so jaded by your lack of pay. is 70K your annual salary or your total compensation package? You are head an shoulders above the median wage in Oregon. Now the point of the article is if staff were reduced due to excessive growth, more teachers could be hired. you teach one class to 25 students at a time. if there were another teacher your work load would be cut in half.

      My daughter teaches in a private preschool (spelled Montessori) and has a dozen children half of whom are special needs (ADHD without drugs) and doesn’t even get half your salary. get off your pity party and re read the article and think about it.

      My wife would be really angry with me over this reply as she works as one of the “staff”. Her reward for many years of hard work has been richly rewarded by an annual decrease of salary of $1000 over the last three years and no increase in any benefits. so maybe a decrease in the Staffing would have kept her salary at least even with inflation. There would not have been the furlow days and you as a teacher may have your work load cut in half.

      • Oma Gawd

        Christine is pulling your leg, in turn you may take her bola and wrap it securely around her mouth until she plea bargains she’s as phony as a 3 dollar bill. .

        • Oma Gawd

          Christine also answers to another name posted a few blogs back. It’s “Ruthy” as in Barr or something similar discovered floating in the Bushwood Country Club swimming pool.

          • thevillageidiot

            Thanks I have not read enough ofvChristine to know.

        • as Oma sees it

          phony as a 3H shill seems applicable as well

  • .

    Rudy Crew is a droll bawl past due in being sent to bed without any nourishment other that a roundly felt spanking on his d’mass and no diaper change whence his rationality turns to becoming a wet dream scheme of his whizz.

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