A Question Rarely Asked

How many K-12 teachers does Vermont need?

Back in August the Learning Policy Institute asked “Where Have All the Teachers Gone?” The answer, evidently, is Vermont.

The state’s precipitous decline in student enrollment has led to… an escalating climb in the hiring of K-12 school employees. Public schools now have one employee for every four students.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott thinks schools could get along fine with one employee for every five students, saving taxpayers about $100 million.

Vermont NEA reacted in a predictable manner: “Gov. Scott Wants to Fire Hundreds of Educators.”

You might think Gov. Scott’s plan is a harsh and abrupt way to deal with the situation, but I wandered back to the EIA Communiqué of April 6, 2009 and found an item I headlined “Vermont School Funding Mystery Solved“:

Public school enrollment in Vermont declined for the 13th consecutive year, and the state’s tax commissioner wants to know why education funding keeps increasing.

Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Could it have something to do with the fact that the state has 92,572 students and 19,145 full-time equivalent education employees? If California had a similar ratio, it would have almost 1.3 million school employees, of whom more than 650,000 would be classroom teachers.

The student-to-staff ratio then was 4.83 to 1, so Gov. Scott’s solution is simply to return to the slightly less untenable ratio of eight years ago.

So when you read your next teacher shortage story, remember that the number of teachers hired will always rise to the amount of money made available, without regard to the number of students enrolled.