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July 19, 2010

1) 45,000 Fewer Students and 7,800 More Teachers. When Sen. Tom Harkin first introduced the edujobs bill, several reform organizations asked for the money to be tied to a change in layoff procedures. They wanted to put an end to "last hired, first fired" seniority. The idea was to save the jobs of effective new teachers instead of ineffective veteran teachers. Supporters and opponents of the bill were alike in failing to acknowledge one important fact.

Many of those new teachers should never have been hired in the first place.

Each year the U.S. Census Bureau publishes a comprehensive report on public school revenues and expenditures. These figures, coupled with teacher workforce numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics Common Core of Data, supported by those from the National Education Association's Rankings & Estimates, are the basis for EIA's annual district spending tables.

The latest Census Bureau report provides details of the 2007-08 school year, and it goes far in explaining why we have been experiencing large-scale layoffs of public education employees since then.

In the 2007-08 school year, 48,396,076 students were enrolled in the U.S. K-12 public education system. That was a decline of 45,397 students from the previous year. They were taught by 3,150,061 teachers (full-time equivalent). That was an increase of 7,859 teachers from the previous year.

Defenders of the current system are fond of telling us that children are not widgets and public education is not a business. And they are right. No business in America hires more employees when it has fewer customers.

Twenty-seven states had fewer students in 2008 than in 2007, but 15 of them hired more teachers. These states were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

With more payroll chasing fewer students, it's no surprise to discover that per-pupil spending rose a healthy 6.1% in 2007-08, and the amount spent on employee salaries and benefits increased 6.0%. The United States average for per-pupil spending was $10,259 with 20 states spending more than $10,000 per student.

Hiring, enrollment and spending can fluctuate from year-to-year, and it is often difficult for school administrators to keep up. It is better to examine trends over a five-year period, and I have constructed a table of the 50 states that does so (I will eventually update figures for each of America's more than 13,000 school districts).

From 2003 to 2008, student enrollment increased a cumulative 1.6 percent, while the K-12 teacher workforce increased 4 percent. Per-pupil spending increased almost 28 percent (9.5% after correcting for inflation). Spending on education employee salaries and benefits increased 26.4 percent (8.2% after correcting for inflation).

This is no mystery, nor is it ancient history. The people denouncing today's devastating layoffs are the same people who hired those teachers amid declining enrollment a mere two years ago. Had a little fiscal restraint been practiced, all of this could have been avoided.

2) NEA Reduces Media Fund Spending for State Affiliates. A portion of each NEA member's dues is applied to the national union's media fund. Some of it is returned to state affiliates in the form of media grants, with the rest used by NEA for its own media campaigns.

In 2009-10, 14 state affiliates received a total of $1.8 million. They were:

Alabama - $123,000

Florida - $80,000

Illinois - $100,000

Iowa - $180,000

Kansas - $128,000

Maryland - $115,000

Michigan - $350,000

New York - $179,000

Ohio - $20,000

Oklahoma - $100,000

Pennsylvania - $70,000

Rhode Island - $127,500

South Dakota - $150,000

Tennessee - $75,000

For the coming school year, only four state affiliates will receive a total of $725,000. They are:

Connecticut - $170,000

Michigan - $175,000

Nebraska - $205,000

West Virginia - $175,000

The national portion of NEA's media fund helped pay for advertising related to the edujobs bill, as well as financial support for the Teacher Leaders Network and Media Matters.

3) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from July 13-19:

*  Love-Hate Relationship. David Obey, Union Fighter!

Unions and Democrats Both Straddle the Fence. And it isn't a comfortable seat.

The Long Reach of Teachers' Unions. I team up with Education Next.

California Teachers Association Shifts $2 Million of Dues Money to PAC. Two pockets. Same pair of pants.

Irreconcilable Differences on Student Testing. No wiggle room.

4) Quote of the Week. "You can look back at the president as a candidate speaking before the unions making it clear about his support for charter schools, his support for things like performance pay. It was not a closeted agenda. And for people to act right now like they feel betrayed by this president only suggests that they were not paying attention when he was speaking." - Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. (July 7 National Public Radio's All Things Considered)

   

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