Teacher flight

Do efforts to cut down on administrative costs in education, make life harder for teachers?

An excellent report from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University takes an in-depth look at the ongoing teacher hiring and retention crisis in that state. Adjusted for inflation, pay is down substantially and step increases, which were reduced during the recession, have not been adjusted upwards sufficiently since then. Between 2013 and 2016, 42 percent of teachers left after three years or less of starting to teach. The parallel statistic for charter schools was 52 percent.

One clear tension in Arizona and elsewhere is that teacher workload has increased, while salary buying power has dropped. The drive for increased accountability has contributed to the increased workload. But another reason may be the reduction in administrative positions. A mom-and-apple-pie solution for more effective education spending is to shift administrative dollars to classroom spending.

Spending more in the classroom sounds swell, but the report from Morrison makes it clear a higher percent of spending devoted to the classroom means a higher workload for teachers.

Here’s what the report says:

“Efforts to move money into the classroom from administrative and support services may have the unintended effect of increasing the workload on teachers. If an assistant principal in charge of tracking attendance is let go so that his salary can go directly to classroom expense, his duties will likely get parceled out to teachers, further increasing their workload as they now fill out attendance reports. Similarly, removing librarians from the system may transfer their duties to classroom teachers.”

The chart below makes it clear how much workload and pay contribute to the teacher exodus in Arizona. A lack of political support for education and problems with administration stand out as well.

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