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Students vs. Staff: How School District Staffing Compares with School Enrollment

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Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 11:20 AM

As we reported yesterday, April 30 is the deadline for schools that plan to layoff teachers to notify them. School districts that have already announced planned layoffs include Cincinnati, Cleveland, Coventry, Dublin, Lorain and Westerville:

Among the reasons cited for the reductions are dwindling student populations, cuts in state funding, lower property revenues, and trouble passing levies and labor contracts.

Personnel costs make up the largest part of school district budgets -- generally around 80 percent -- and teachers make up the largest group of school district personnel. In some districts, overall staff levels have inched downwards as enrollment has plummeted. In others, the picture is very different.

In Cleveland, for example, enrollment fell about 40 percent over the past ten years. The number of teachers fell about 25 percent over the same period. But in Cincinnati, teacher staffing levels actually fell more than enrollment. That means that Cleveland actually had more teachers per student last year than they did in 2002. In Cincinnati, the reverse was true -- they had fewer teachers per student in 2011 than in 2002.

But it's important to note that a higher district-wide teacher:student ratio doesn't necessarily mean that class sizes are smaller. And the complexities of staffing schools mean that one wouldn't expect staffing levels to rise or fall at exactly the same pace as enrollment.

Still, let's look at  three districts that recently announced plans to layoff teachers -- Cleveland, Cincinnati and Westerville -- and see how they compare.

Cleveland Staff vs. Students

Source: Cleveland school district 2011 audit

Over the ten years from 2002 to 2011, in the Cleveland school district:

  • Enrollment dropped by 40 percent.
  • The number of employees fell by 28 percent. The number of teachers fell by 25 percent.
  • The steepest drops were in administrative employees (including principals, assistant principals, central-office administrators and administrative assistants) and student services employees (including librarians, guidance counselors and social workers). Both fell by more than 40 percent. That means:
    • The number of social workers district-wide fell from 31 to 7.
    • The number of assistant principals fell from 137 to 74.

Cincinnati Staff vs. Students

Source: Cincinnati school district 2011 audit

Over the ten years from 2002 to 2011, in the Cincinnati school district:

  • Enrollment dropped by 22 percent.
  • The number of employees fell by 25 percent. The number of classroom teachers fell by 34 percent.
  • The number of administrative staff saw the least decrease, falling 15 percent.

Westerville Staff vs. Students

Source: Westerville school district 2011 audit

Over the six years from 2005 to 2011, in the Westerville school district:

  • Enrollment grew by 6 percent.
  • The number of employees rose by 15 percent. The number of teachers grew by 19 percent.
  • The number of staff working in student services (including nurses, speech therapists and psychologists) staff grew even more quickly than the number of teachers, rising 22 percent.

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