Does he see the disconnect?

 Last year the teacher/admin guy who heads up athletics gave me a tour of an addition to his school. New weight room. New dressing rooms for swimmers. New greenhouse. New this, new that. Sizeable addition. Wow!

How are your student numbers these days, I asked him. “Oh, they’re falling. Just like all the schools in the area. They’ve been falling for years. And studies tell us they will fall further.”

His school adds more floor space. More space to heat and maintain. While students in the school grow fewer each year.  Does he see the disconnect? And if he does, does he care? Nah. His job is secure. His school is part of a government monopoly. It does not have to compete with anything. So there is no incentive to keep costs (the price of education) down.

New York State schools have 2.7 million students.  In 1997 they had 2.8 million. They have 21,000 more teachers today than then. Yes, 21,000 more teachers to teach fewer kids than the schools had in 1997. The schools also have 11,000 more administrators now than then.



Think about that.  And if your thinking leads you to believe the results are better these days, you might want to change that thinking.

In 1970, across the country, we spent $55,000 to teach a kid from kindergarten to 12th grade. In today’s dollars, that is. Today we spend nearly $155,000 per pupil. You cannot blame inflation. These figures are adjusted for inflation.

Across the country student numbers have barely increased since 1970. Yet the number of people working in the schools has doubled.

Meanwhile schools have added buildings and stadia galore. How many schools do you know that have not? The new buildings have added to maintenance and energy costs, of course. All this expansion has whacked taxpayers, of course. (To be fair, it is often the parents who push for the new buildings, especially new gyms and football fields.)

So how about the results? In reading and math, pupils do as well now (or as poorly) as they did in 1970.  In science they do worse. Little wow. Parents spend over $4 billion a year on tutoring. To make up for short-comings at the schools.

Is more money for teachers and administrators the answer? One-third of NY school superintendents make over $175,000. And teachers nationwide make 42 percent more now than teachers in the private sector. Pity them, however. They pony up lots of money in union dues. Unions spend chunks of that money on politicians. The education lobby spends more on pols in Washington than any other lobbyists. They sure spend a bundle on Albany politicians.

Educators complain that their paperwork burden has grown enormously. What do they expect? Their unions keep stuffing money into the coffers of politicians who vote in the burdensome regulations. Educators are getting precisely what they pay for.

Cato’s Andrew Coulson gives us an intriguing calculation. Throughout the private sector, companies keep learning how to do more with fewer people. This is called a gain in productivity. Which is how living standards rise.

Schools seem to be doing the opposite. They are achieving less with more people. Coulson says “If our schools had merely maintained the level of productivity they enjoyed in 1970 – not improved as other fields have, just held their ground – American taxpayers would be saving roughly $300 billion a year.  In California alone, the $26 billion budget deficit would be instantly wiped out and replaced with a $10 billion surplus.”

Why do you suppose it is that industries around the globe have found ways to produce more and higher quality products with fewer workers? And meanwhile, schools have done the equivalent of the opposite?           

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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