Proposed Teacher Shortage Solution: Stop Investing So Much In Other School Staff

Some experts feel that the teacher shortage crisis in America could have been avoided if schools stopped funneling money to nonteaching jobs.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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teacher shortage

There is no denying the fact that data clearly shows a mass teacher shortage crisis in America. However, some feel that this issue could have been completely avoided. One solution being presented is to nix the large rate at which districts are spending money to hire nonteacher staff. But would this solution really work?

The Washington Examiner recently published an article written by Lindsey Burke, discussing what is believed to be the real issue culminating in the alleged teacher shortage crisis in America: nonteacher staffing. The claim is that schools have spent billions over the decades to perpetually add in non-teaching staff like aids, office staff, guidance counselors, custodians, librarians, food service workers, and bus drivers. In fact, research shows that the rate of growth for these positions far exceeds the growth rate of teachers.

According to researchers studying teacher shortages from the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the number of students in public schools increased 100%  since 1950. Teacher positions increased at a significantly higher rate though. These positions rose by 243% since 1950. Startingly, nonteaching staff positions rose 709%, according to information from a study conducted by EdChoice in 2017.

This data might be shocking to many people, given the current state of public education where publications are filled with stories of states struggling to fill positions amid the teacher shortage. But one thing these numbers don’t necessarily account for is the reasons why nonteaching staff jobs may have increased so sharply. Public schools in America were tremendously different for children before the 1950s. For one, school days were much shorter before 1950. Up until the ’60s ’70s and ’80s, it was normal for children to go home for lunch – meaning most schools didn’t need to hire lunch staff. So yes, nonteaching positions have drastically risen higher than student rates, but that might be simply because the need for them increased as more students attended school, and the school day evolved.

Still, there are other issues with teacher shortages that some feel could address the issue. Class sizes play a lot in these findings. Some education experts correlate the teacher shortage with the call for reduced class sizes. Schools that wish to decrease the student-to-teacher ratios, in turn, have to hire more teachers in order to do so. 

One solution could be to increase class sizes, and some data actually backs up a claim that larger class sizes do not, in fact, cause any more learning loss in children. Looking at countries with the highest academic performance rates, these countries all have larger class sizes than the average in America. In China, Singapore, and Hong King – class sizes average 38, 33, and 40 students, respectively. 

teacher shortage

There are plenty of varying opinions on how to address this teacher shortage in America, along with why its happening. It might be teacher burnout, it might be wrongfully funding other school initiatives. But despite the reasons, it is clear that it needs to be addressed before it leads to more learning disruptions for the youth of America.