The Number Of Public School Students Is Exploding, And The Number Of Teachers Is Falling Off A Cliff

Among the nastier numbers in Friday’s terrible jobs report was a 15,000-payroll drop in public schools jobs for December.

That brings the net payroll losses in local school districts since September 2008 to 307,000.

Few other sectors have seen that kind of decline.

While most of the cuts resulted from crunched city and county budgets, they’ve also come as part of the national education reform movement, which has sought to drain public schools of what the movements says is overly generous spending on poorly performing schools and teachers.

That may seem like a worthy initiative.

But Chris Mai at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is out with a simple chart that may muddy that worldview: over the same six-odd years, the net number of students who’ve enrolled in schools over the same period has soared 801,000.

“The recession is far from over for the nation’s schools,” Mai writes.

Her colleague and former adviser to Vice President Joe Biden Jared Bernstein adds:

“Whenever someone raises this issue [of school cuts], my first thought is ‘ok, but what’s happening with enrollments?’ That is, it’s not an obviously bad thing for schools to adjust staffing levels to demand, i.e., enrollment. As shown in the figure, that’s not what’s happening here.”

The data does not show where overall student-to-teacher ratios now stand compared with prior levels. But it would be hard to be bullish about these figures.

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