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Study: Growth of school staff outpaces enrollment

VICTORVILLE • Educators at the Victor Elementary School District say they've been able to keep the number of administrators at their schools to a minimum, even as one study shows the ratio of campus managers to students has skyrocketed across the nation over the past 60 years.

Nationally, the number of administrators and other non-teaching staff at public schools increased 702 percent since 1950 while the increase in K-12 student enrollment was just 96 percent, according to a 2012 study by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

The study, “The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools,” found a seven-fold increase in administrators and other non-teachers in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The report shows that almost all 50 states saw an excessive increase in the size of non-teaching personnel compared to the student population. The study shows teaching staff only increased 252 percent during that time. The states with the most disproportionate increases between 1992 and 2009 were Hawaii, Ohio, Minnesota and New Hampshire.

During those years, student enrollment in California grew 24 percent while administrators and other non-teaching staff grew 37 percent and teaching staff grew 36 percent.

Debbie Betts, director of fiscal services at Victor Elementary School District, said the district has a long-standing practice of keeping administrative positions lean and is able to do so because it uses a site-based decision model, which means staff at each site has the autonomy to make the necessary decisions.

“This works well because each school’s needs are different,” Betts said. “And because we keep the administrative positions to a minimum, schools have the discretionary budget to fund the decisions they make.”

Betts said the district has always kept the number of administrative positions low, and the number dipped even further when state funding was reduced during the recession. A leaner administrative staff hasn’t always been easy for the district, however, and the present staff has tried to pick up the slack.

“This has been a real challenge for the principals,” Betts said. “They had to split their time between classrooms and operational issues.”

In response, Betts said, the district created a part time position that will allow the principals more time to be the instructional leader at their school. The four-hour-per-day position is funded by a year-to-year grant from the state, said Betts.

According to the Ed-Data website, Victor Elementary has a relatively low number of administrators per pupil when compared to the county as a whole. Victor Elementary has one administrator for every 554.8 students, while schools countywide have one administrator per 311.8 students.

The High Desert district with the lowest proportion is Hesperia Unified School District, with one administrator for every 1,402.2 pupils.

Helendale Elementary School District has the highest proportion, with 239.7 students per administrator, but Helendale Elementary is a small district with only three administrators.

Researchers for the Friedman Foundation assert that if non-teaching personnel had grown at the same rate as student population, American public schools would save $24.3 billion a year, which would result in a $7,500 raise per teacher nationwide or a $1,700 school voucher for each child in poverty.

“It’s astounding that billions of dollars are wasted on personnel in American public schools who do not produce educational results,” Friedman Foundation president Robert Enlow said. “We need to rethink how we spend our money, including whether we would get better student outcomes if we redirected these funds to parents so they could send their child to the school of their choice.”

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice is an Indiana-based nonprofit devoted to the privatization of schools through the promotion of an educational voucher system. Visit www.EdChoice.org/StaffSurge to see the full report.

Lynnea Lombardo may be reached at (760) 951-6232 or at LLombardo@VVDailyPress.com.

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