Purging the Surge

imag0166  Fort Mackinac, Mackinac Island, MI

Actually I am not sure what this title means except that I hope to clean up some of the possible misinformation coming from Benjamin Scafidi’s work that is heavily cited by the OCPA.  I tackled his Surge 1 in my October 17, 2016 “Dirge for a Surge” so now will tackle his Surge 2.  This work built on the first by providing state by state information; specifically, he points out that from FY 1992 to FY 2009 Oklahoma’s “Change in Students” was 10% compared to a “Change in Administrators and other Non-Teaching Staff” of 28%.  His source is the U S Dept of Ed’s National Center for Education Statistics.  He goes on to do the math that at $40,000 each, if the growth in administrators and other non-teaching staff had only been 10%, then there would have been enough funding, about $230,000,000 each year, for teachers to get a $5,000 pay raise.

My critique of Surge 1 was that using the terminology “Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff” was intentional on his part to lead the reader to believe that the primary growth has been in administrators when I suspect it has been among the major support personnel categories of teacher assistants, food service workers, bus drivers, etc.  I argued that unless you pinpoint what job categories make up the growth and examine what laws, policies, and other factors have caused the increases, his Surge research merely crunches numbers without providing thoughtful policy direction.  I also disputed his use, which I think was in the spring presentation to OCPA, of $50,000 per non-teaching employee to come up with a $7,000 raise for teachers (lay off TA’s, bus drivers and food service workers and give teachers a raise!).  He uses $40,000 in Surge 2. 

Others have critiqued his work for similar reasons.  At the end of Surge 2 is his rendition of five categories of critiques that he received, it’s supposedly an academic paper, and his responses.

To put more of a face on this data, which deserves consideration by policy-makers, I tallied the current full time staff, numbering 603, at Sand Springs Public Schools by general job category.  Here’s the list:

317 Teachers (includes all certified personnel defined as teachers by law and OCAS coding, i.e. classroom teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses, librarians, etc.)                 

286 Administrators and Non-Teaching Personnel, specifically:

27 Administrators (serving 11 separate instructional sites)

82 Teacher Assistants (in the classroom)                                     

54 Food Service Workers                                                                 

36 Bus Drivers                                                                          

35 Building Custodians                                                                      

32 Office Workers (school sites and central administration)              

12 Maintenance, Warehouse and Mechanics  

4 Information Technology

4 Security Guards                

The total of the “bad” employees is 286; less than 10% of that number are administrators.  Why does Scafidi lead off that category with Administrators unless he is trying to bias the reader?

Most of these support personnel are employed only when students are in school, like teachers, on 180 day contracts.  While their hourly wages may be competitive in the marketplace, their total compensation is reduced significantly as a result.  If Scafidi would do the work he would find, at least in Oklahoma, that support personnel compensation (I mean total cost) is likely more in the range of $25,000, not $40,000.  Throw in 10% of administrators at $75,000 each and you end up with an average of $30,000, well under his $40,000 figure he uses to say we could give teachers the $5,000 raise.

Still it would be something.  Yet another way to look at this, using SDE Annual Report numbers shows ADA grew from 1992 at 556,608 to 603,409, an 8.4% increase (Scafidi’s figure is 10%) while “certified staff” (not FTE) increased from 44,164 to 52,167, an 18.1% increase.  This seems consistent with his central thesis that more and more adults are not getting the job done, if you believe the job is not getting done.  It also says that the student to certified staffing ratio fell from 12.6 to 11.6 over that 17-year period—should we expect that to be a game-changer?

In an earlier blog post I point out that part of the HB 1017 reforms of the early 90s was to expand early childhood education, which requires teacher assistants, and to lower class sizes, for which teacher assistants can be used as a safety valve.  If policy makers think there are too many adults, don’t whine about it, do the hard work and tell school districts what services to reduce, like school meals that are mostly paid for with federal funds that would disappear with the workers, early childhood education, or maybe convenient school bus service that working parents rely on.

Remember lunch is on me if you identify the photo location.  ID’d by Gretchen Hannefield.


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