School boards increase hiring of teachers, reduce administrative personnel

A new report released today by the Kansas Association of School Boards shows that Kansas school districts have added almost 4,000 teaching positions since 1998, an increase of nearly 13 percent, or four times the rate of student growth. Over the same period, districts have reduced the number of superintendents by nearly 7 percent and principals by 6 percent.That has allowed districts to reduce class size and add teachers for special education, kindergarten and early childhood programs, and other special services. In fact, Kansas now has one of the lowest pupil to teacher ratios in the nation.

Those facts cast a different light on recent statements from the Kansas Policy Institute and some legislators claiming that school administrative salaries have skyrocketed at the expense of teachers and classroom instruction. For example, a blog by KPI said that in Kansas “pay raises to superintendents and principals far outpace those to teachers.”
It also questioned the priorities of local school boards “when pay increases are disproportionately higher to those who are not in the classroom.”

At KASB, we advocate on behalf of local schools boards, so we decided to take a comprehensive look into the issue. What we found is that the data are more complex and provide a different picture than what has been alleged.Our Research Specialist, Ted Carter, went as far back as he could to where he thought data could be reliably compared; back to the 1997-98 school year up to the present. Carter found that during that period, principals had an average cumulative pay increase of 58.01 percent; superintendents 57.52 percent and teachers, 50.06 percent. But does that indicate school boards are sacrificing classroom instruction to heap money on principals and superintendents?

Let’s look a bit closer.

Since 1998, the number of teachers has increased 13 percent while districts have reduced the number of principals by 6 percent and superintendents by nearly 7 percent. That means school boards have been putting more instructional staff in front of students to provide more individualized attention, exactly the opposite of what has been implied. The increased number of teachers and decreased number of administrators shows up in the total amount that school boards spend on salaries. For teachers, the salary amount has increased 70 percent, while for principals, 48 percent and superintendents, 43 percent.

These facts may also explain why the average salary of a principal and superintendent has increased a little more than the average teacher's salary: Administrators are supervising more people. The average number of teachers and students per principal and superintendent has increased significantly, while the average number of students per teacher has decreased.

In addition, many additional teachers hired during the period may be new to the profession, and receive lower salaries than returning teachers. This reduces the overall average, but doesn’t reflect how local boards are compensating experienced educators who remain in the classroom. This salary and workforce data shows school boards have been reducing the number of administrators in order to hire more teachers and paraprofessionals, which in turn reduces the ratio of students per teacher. Does that sound like a commitment to try to help every student succeed? We think it does.

According to the most recent data, on 14 measures of student success, only 7 states had better performance on a majority of those measures. All seven provided more total funding per pupil than Kansas. In fact, 26 states spend more per pupil than Kansas. Instead of criticizing local school boards, we think they deserve praise for doing exactly what is needed to be good stewards of taxpayer funds and provide an outstanding product — Kansas public schools.

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