In a recent roundtable interview with education “experts”*(see endnote) in Texas Monthly entitled “Night of the Living Ed.” The full transcript can be found at http://www.texasmonthly.com/2011-05-01/webextra10.php This week’s blogs will review the incorrect statements and set the record straight.
The interview is quite an interesting read for a number of different reasons. But what struck me was the number of incorrect statements made as well as a the number of statements that told only one-half of the story. a number of dubious statements were made.
In particular, statements made by Arlene Wohlgemuth, Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) are troubling for their lack of factual support. Her statements are particularly disconcerting because so many conservative legislators listen closely to what TPPF has to say on education issues. Unfortunately, there are many instances of TPPF playing fast and loose with research and facts. For example, the recent blow-up about O’Donnell and the numerous errors in his “research paper.” To read about rhis, see the terrific SA Express News coverage at:
says is NOT backed up by research or actual facts.
Below are some statements made by Ms. Wohlgemuth and the actual FACTS that contradict her statements.
Arlene Wohlgemuth: “What I believe the people of this state don’t want is the current situation. We have as many support people and administrators as we have teachers, and the support people make more than the average salary of the teachers.”
David Anthony: I’m glad you said that. Let me interrupt for just one minute. In our district, 89 percent of our budget is personnel cost, and that’s 68.75 percent to teachers, 3.2 percent to central administration, 5.8 percent to accounts administration, about 7 percent to student services—counselors, librarians, nurses, psychologists—5.7 percent to educational aides, and 9.4 percent to all of the auxiliary staff—maintenance, custodial, transportation, clerks, paraprofessionals. So 69 percent goes to teachers.
Arlene Wohlgemuth: You’re speaking about one school district.
Scott McCown: The numbers are no different at—
Arlene Wohlgemuth: Oh, no, no, no.
As one can see by this graph, we clearly do NOT have as many support personnel and administrators as we do teachers.
Figure 1: Percentage of Education Employees by Role: 1991 to 2011
With respect to the current academic year, Figure 2 below shows that 50.4% of employees are teachers while only 13.1% of employees are support personnel or administrators. Now, maybe she is including auxiliary staff and educational aides as support personnel. But people with such power have a responsibility for being careful when making statements such as this. Clearly what she said is NOT true and not even close to being true.
Further, Ms. Wohlgemuth and others making such statements are implying that non-teachers do not impact student outcomes. As I show in my post that looks specifically at who impacts students directly (https://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/budget-cut-analysis/), I show that two-thirds of all staff have a direct impact on st5udent outcomes and that this percentage has not changed over the last 20 years (see Figure 3 below).
FIGURE 3: Percentage of All Staff Directly and Indirectly Impacting Student Outcomes
As shown in the Figure below, the vast majority of districts spent between 55% and 70% of total staff base salaries on teachers. The average percentage was 61% and a large number of districts clustered between 60% and 65%. When calculated as Dr. Anthony calculated expenditures–total teacher salaries as a percentage of all personnel costs–he and Scott McCown were quite correct in that most districts had similar expenditures as Cy-Fair at 69%. Cy-Fair does spend more on teachers than most districts, but not by much.
Unfortunately, this is not the only instance of TPPF not being quite accurate about educational statistics. As many people recently noted in the SA Express news, (see http://www.mysanantonio.com/default/article/Errors-found-in-paper-attacking-research-1338182.php) Rick O-Donnell’s writings for TPPF were full of citations errors, outright factual errors, and unidentified sources for claims. This sloppiness and aversion to the truth seems, unfortunately, par for the course for TPPF.