One reason we do not pay teachers more

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Passed on by a friend is the shocking bulge in hiring for grades K-8: In the past year, there were 52,000 new K-8 students nationwide, and 42,500 new K-8 teachers hired.

The National Education Association today released its annual report, Rankings and Estimates: Rankings of the States 2006 and Estimates of School Statistics 2007

Teacher hiring is completely out of control.

Yes, believers in the eternal teacher shortage, you read that correctly. A trend that was obvious after last year’s edition of Rankings and Estimates is now glaring. The last of the Baby Boomer’s kids are working their way through high school and they are not being replaced. NEA estimates that K-12 enrollment grew by only 0.3 percent in 2006-07, but the demographic implications are only clear when you separate elementary enrollment from secondary.

Grades K-8 Enrollment 2006-07= 29,758,808 (+51,958; +0.2%)

Grades 9-12 Enrollment 2006-07= 19,133,765 (+113,079; +0.6%)

Looks like we should be hiring a greater percentage of high school teachers, right? But we’re not, not even close.

Grades K-8 Classroom Teachers 2006-07= 1,856,567 (+42,541; +2.3%)

Grades 9-12 Classroom Teachers 2006-07= 1,317,787 (+10,175; +0.8%)

That’s right. America hired 42,541 extra elementary school teachers for 51,958 extra elementary school students. That’s one extra teacher for every 1.2 extra students. This is not a new trend, only an accelerated one. In the last 10 years, K-8 enrollment has risen by a cumulative 4.1 percent. But the K-8 teaching forced has risen by a cumulative 17.1 percent.

If the national picture seems insane, consider California. NEA estimates a 48,031 student decrease in K-8 enrollment for 2006-07, but an increase of 9,284 K-8 teachers.

NEA estimates K-8 average salaries increased 4.2 percent in 2006-07, which means we are paying a premium for all those extra teachers. So while NEA decries the failure of average salaries to match inflation, the fact that public school districts can so massively increase the number of teachers at the bottom end of the scale, while still increasing the average salary by a substantial amount, is a testament to the ability of government to appropriate money for education.

Why can’t teacher salaries go up? Might have something to do with hiring too many.