Last month I wrote about how a close look at district staffing data doesn’t support the Milton Friedman Foundation’s claim that districts have been on a spending surge of ‘non-instructional staff’. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the increase in administrator hiring was in the hiring of instructional coordinators and aids, positions that certainly impact student instruction.
To bolster my claim districts have not been using taxpayer money to bolster central office bureaucrats I recently came across financial data from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that shows districts are actually spending less of their budgets on administrators than they were two decades ago. In fact in 1989 the average school district spent 11.2 percent of their budgets on administrators which decreased to 10.8 percent in 2009. Over the same time period districts spent relatively the same amount of their budgets on instruction (60.9 percent in 1989 and 61.0 percent in 2009).
Over the past two decades districts have made a greater investment in their student and teacher support staffs by increasing their proportion of district budgets from 8.2 percent to 10.2 percent from 1989 to 2009. Such staff typically includes instructional coordinators and aids that indirectly benefit classroom instruction. It is likely not a coincidence that NAEP achievement increased significantly over this time as well.
While it may be popular to imply that districts are wasting taxpayer money on highly paid administrators that don’t improve student achievement, both data on district staff and expenditures show a much different picture. Districts have been investing more in supporting students and teachers which appears to have had a significant positive impact on student achievement over the past two decades.—Jim Hull