The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 4, 2014

Oklahoma administrative growth dwarfs student growth

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

Amid the ongoing discussion of whether Oklahoma’s public education system needs more money, an important point is often overlooked: According to data that the state of Oklahoma reports to the U.S. Department of Education, Oklahoma school district administration has been growing dramatically.

According to a new analysis by economist Benjamin Scafidi, “Using the time period available, FY 1998 to FY 2011, Oklahoma public schools increased employment in school district administration by 49 percent, while the number of students in Oklahoma public schools increased by only 6 percent. In other words, in Oklahoma public schools, school district administration employment increased more than eight times faster than its student population.”

Dr. Scafidi says if Oklahoma’s increase in bureaucratic overhead had simply mirrored the increase in students, the annual cost savings would exceed $229 million. That’s money Oklahoma’s political leaders could have used to cut taxes, improve our roads and bridges, or do any number of things — including raising teacher salaries by $4,924.

We’ve now reached the point that “only half of Oklahoma’s public education employees are teachers,” as education researcher Greg Forster pointed out in 2011. “The bureaucracy is now so big, it takes up half the system.”

According to Dr. Forster, “There’s absolutely no reason for any sector of government to directly employ bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, or any of the rest of this category. The whole enchilada needs to be privatized posthaste. You wouldn’t just eliminate unnecessary positions that are there due to featherbedding, although that’s considerable. More important, though, you’d be able to pay the market rate for the positions you kept, instead of hyperinflated civil-service salaries and benefits. And you’d be able to fire people if they didn’t deliver good services.”

When only half of Oklahoma’s public education employees are teachers — and the administrative growth shows no sign of letting up — Oklahoma’s political leaders should ask themselves if more money is really the answer.

BRANDON DUTCHER

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Inc.

Oklahoma City

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