#AmplifyChoice: Eye-Popping Numbers On Admin Bloat vs Student Growth

On August 11th and 12th, the annual Amplify Choice conference, which focuses on school choice issues, was held in Denver, Colorado.

During the conference, a presentation was given entitled, “The Economics of School Choice”.  The presentation was given by Ben Scafidi, who is a professor of economics and the director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University.

Scafidi’s presentation had some eye-popping numbers when it came to student population growth juxtaposed with that of administrative and non-teaching staff. The full presentation is available at the end of this article.

For example, Scafidi stated that from 1950 to 2009 teacher staffing size grew 386% versus students at 96%. During that same period, administrative and other non-teaching staff ballooned by an incredible 702%.

Between 1992 and 2014 non-teaching staff grew an additional 34%.

NAEP SCAFIDIScafidi noted that student achievement did not rise during this staffing surge. In fact, scores are flat or declining.

Comparing 1992 to 2012, reading declined, while math scores stayed flat.

Scafidi also asserted that that No Child Left Behind did not make states engage in this staffing surge.

“The hiring of staff are individual district policy choices.”, said Scafidi.  “Are some caused by state? Sure, but most of it is local. It doesn’t matter who to blame, this has been going on since 1950.”  Scafidi added that this pattern has no political pattern. It was bipartisan over time.

In the last 60 years, admin bloat has increased 7 times faster than student population according to Scafidi.  The cost of administrative staff is $50,000 per person on average and includes training, benefits, retirement  and other compensation related details.

Scafidi asserted that there would have been $27 billion in savings every year if increases to non-teaching staff had matched student enrollment.  According to Scafidi, with that $27 billion dollars in savings, every teacher could have had around a $8,700 raise.

Scafidi went on to highlight the administrative bloat versus student growth in a number of states. Scafidi also included details of the of savings the state would have had if their administrative staff had grown at the same pace as their student population.

Below are a few examples of the growth rates by state from 1992 to 2014. Most of the numbers increased, however a few states saw student and teacher growth go negative.

  • AZ:  students 68%, all staff 58%, teachers 42%, ADMIN 74%.
  • CA: students 24% , 28% all staff, 16% teachers 37% ADMIN
  • CO: students 48%, 66% all staff, 52% teachers 88% ADMIN
  • Washington D.C.: students -3% , Staff 2%, teachers -6%, ADMIN 13%
  • IN: students 9%, all staff 33%,  teachers 10%, 56% ADMIN
  • LA: -10% students, all staff 44%, teachers 1%, 144% ADMIN

Scafido noted that Louisiana could have given a $34,0000 raise to teachers with their $1.6 billion savings.

Let’s look local at the administrative bloat.

From 1992 to 2014 in North Carolina, student growth increased 39%, staff and teachers both went up 52%  and  administrative/non-teaching positions also went up 52%.

What if North Carolina had  increased staff at the same rate that student enrollment increased?

North Carolina schools would have saved $396,000,000 each year in recurring savings. The state could use that savings to give every teacher a $4,000 raise, reduce property taxes of offer 49,515 kids an $8,000 scholarship to private schools.

As Scafidi noted nationwide, North Carolina’s student achievement did not really rise along with the staffing surge.

This is the opposite of what North Carolina Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson has been saying recently.  In an interview with the Jefferson Post, Atkinson said,  “People in North Carolina, if they knew how little was spent on administration, they should be sending us ‘thank you cards’ for doing the work to support teachers in the classroom.”

Atkinson has touted increased graduation rates, yet few have looked deeper into what those numbers mean. Atkinson had promoted an 84.5% graduation rate, yet that number comes with some catches.

Atkinson has touted the 85.4% graduation rate, but the NC School Report card says that 47.9% of students were “career and college ready” and included a grade level proficiency of 57.9%.

In other words, a true reading of the 85.4% graduation rate means that out of every 100 students, roughly 85 graduated. Of that 85 students, only 48% were considered “career and college ready”. That translates to 41 students out of 85 – less than half.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has had a very low non-teaching staff turn-over rate when compared to that of in-classroom teachers.

In fact, this past year Dr. Atkinson and DPI made an art out of shifting staff from job to job in order to maintain their staffing levels using funds that were earmarked for specific programs. This caught the attention of the legislature and a firestorm ensued.

DPI, under the direction of Dr. Atkinson, has also contracted out a consistently large number of projects that have been costly in both state and federal dollars.  Quite a few multi-million dollars contracts have gone to SAS Institute, Pearson and the Friday Institute at NC State University.

DPI has sent NC tax dollars out of state on various occasion as well.  Case in point, DPI didn’t even write their own Race To The Top grant.  A Bill Gates Foundation backed group called ‘Boston Consulting‘ was paid for input, but eventually the Friday Institute ended up filing the application.

There was also the issue that around 7,300 teacher applications were backlogged. In addition to that, NC received an “F” from USA Today for teacher screening. Dr. Atkinson apparently stuck the screening issue in a drawer several years ago and never followed through, forcing the the legislature to step in yet again.

This raises the question not asked in the Jefferson Post article: What does DPI’s administrative staff really do themselves that justifies continued six figure non-teaching positions?

Thanks to Ben Scafidi, we now know what North Carolinians have been over-paying for.

View Scafidi’s presentation:


* This article has been updated to reflect more accurately what entities were involved in the RTTT grant.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips: APDillon@Protonmail.com
This entry was posted in EDUCATION, NC DPI, School Choice. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to #AmplifyChoice: Eye-Popping Numbers On Admin Bloat vs Student Growth

  1. Pingback: #AmplifyChoice: A Look at Two Denver Charter Schools | Lady Liberty 1885

  2. If you want to see real wasteful…look at UK (University of Kentucky) and it’s renovations of its athletic facilities. Rationale: better facilities mean better recruitment. Look at all the new construction at Eastern Kentucky University. I saw at least 4 high dollar buildings going up. Look at coaches salaries. Look at the curriculum that requires “diversity” non-sense indoctrination for graduation. It will make you puke. And tuition increases? EVERY YEAR for both schools. It’s a disgrace. I have to ask myself, where does admin get the $$$ for such building projects?


  3. Rod Powell says:

    With you on this one.

    Your favorite SJW


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