Yes, There Can Be Such a Thing as Too Many Teachers
Over at Jay Greene’s blog, Greg Forster takes on the issue (via the extraordinary education investigator Mike Antonucci) of states with growing teacher workforces and flat – or even shrinking – student populations:
Maryland, for example, expanded its teacher workforce 10 percent from 2001 to 2006, while enrollment grew less than 1 percent. California, which is still carrying around an extremely bloated teacher workforce from its apparently failed experiment in class size reduction, has just announced that it’s cancelling the large majority of its planned teacher layoffs.
Greg goes on to point out that growing teacher-to-student ratios largely have not resulted in smaller class sizes – in part because teachers have their classroom time limited or some are working in non-classroom positions. So who gets the best of this arrangement?
Well, the teachers’ unions make out like bandits. More teachers means bigger budgets without the hassle of selling the membership on dues hikes, and more political clout because the public school gravy train is larger.
Jay Greene himself has made the point that to an extent more teachers in the system pushes down the overall quality of the teaching workforce, because there is a limited pool of talent. It’s just as if more chefs were added to the restaurant workforce, eventually the quality would come down. And in an education system with a finite amount of resources, more teachers likely means less earning potential for the most effective teachers.
The kids of Colorado like me deserve better teachers, not more teachers taking administrative jobs or just adding more teachers to fill the system’s payrolls. Both the good teachers and the students benefit from more focus on teacher quality.