Damn Statistics

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Fordham’s Flypaper remarks on a decrease in population among school age children in Ohio and an increase over the same period of time in the number of teachers:

Rick Hess often points out, as he did in a speech at the City Club of Cleveland last week, that if teacher-student ratios had remained constant since the 1970s we could have average teacher salaries in this country closer to $75,000 than $50,000. But these figures show us that, in Ohio at least, you don’t have to go back near that far to see a more right-sized version of education and that a lot of the current pain schools are feeling might have been prevented if they hadn’t gone on a hiring binge over the past decade.

We can lament all we like the wave of teacher layoffs and the impact of “last hired, first fired” policies. But with such a mismatch between the number of teachers and students, teachers’ salaries and benefits accounting for a good three-quarters of school budgets, and states and schools facing record deficits, a right-sizing is simply inevitable.

How about in New Jersey? Like many other states, we’ve lowered class size over the last ten years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, our student/teacher ratio in 2000 was 13.3; in 2006 it was 12.4. For comparison’s sake, in 2000 the average student/teacher ratio across America was 16 and in 2006 it was 13.2. One could argue that everyone was just catching up (down) with us.

NCES also compiles data on teacher pay. The average U.S. teacher annual salary in 1969 (hold on to your hats) was $8,626. In 2009 it was $53,168. In NJ, average annual salary for 1969 was $9,130; in 2009 it was $62,150.

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