Report: Public school staff growing twice as fast as student population

Between 1992 and 2009, the number of public school students nationwide grew by 17 percent while full-time school staff increased by 39 percent, according to a report released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. But the extra employees didn’t seem to do much good, the report continued, because student achievement nationally is flat.

The report suggests public schools could have saved tens of billions of dollars each year had staffing levels grown more modestly, with the savings plowed into higher teacher salaries, early childhood education or vouchers for low-income students.

Florida’s public school student population increased 36 percent over that span, the report points out, while its teaching corps grew by 70 percent.

There’s no doubt Florida’s class-size reduction amendment, which voters approved in 2002, played a role. Unlike their national counterparts, Florida students have made respectable gains over the past 10 to 15 years, due to many factors that are tough to untangle.

In this era of expanding school choice, the report leaves us wondering: Will public dollars be spent more effectively in a system organized around customization?

More on staff growth in public education at the EdFly Blog and this recent Jay P. Greene op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at