Budget & Tax , Education
Curtis Shelton | November 21, 2022
Non-teaching staff surge limits Oklahoma teacher pay raises
In 2017 economist Ben Scafidi highlighted the continuing public school staffing surge in his report “Back to the Staffing Surge.” Scafidi found that between 1992 and 2015 public schools across the country increased all staff by 37 percent—while student enrollment only grew by 20 percent. Non-teaching staff made up the majority of that growth with a 47 percent increase.
Oklahoma’s trends were similar. Between 1992 and 2015 non-teaching staff grew by 36 percent in Oklahoma while student enrollment only grew by 17 percent. Scafidi estimated that had Oklahoma matched non-teaching full-time equivalent (FTE) growth to enrollment growth, the state would have saved $373 million—enough to give each teacher an additional $8,872 in compensation.
The most recent data (2019) show that the trend has continued. Since 2015 teachers as a percentage of total staff has fallen from 49.4 percent to 48.7 percent in Oklahoma. The chart below shows the change in non-teaching staff compared to the growth in students and teachers.
As you can see, growth in non-teaching staff continues to outpace growth in student enrollment and in teaching staff. Using Scafidi’s assumption of $60,000 in savings per non-teaching FTE, Oklahoma could have added another $347 to teacher compensation—boosting the total compensation increase teachers could have received to $9,219. BLS data show that state and local education services workers receive 65 percent of their compensation through salary and wages. That increase in compensation would have raised teacher salaries by an estimated $6,000, moving Oklahoma from 37th to 23rd in average teacher salary with an average annual salary of $60,256 in 2021.
Not only has the staffing surge cost teachers money, it has shown no effect on student outcomes. According to the most recent NAEP reading results, only 24 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders tested proficient or better—a lower share than all but two states.
Policy Research Fellow
Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.