A new report from the Fordham Institute finds that around half of all employees in American schools aren’t teachers—and more than one-quarter of all education expenditures are being spent on their salaries and benefits.

Why do American public schools spend more of their operating budgets on non-teachers than almost every other country in the world, including nations that are as prosperous and humane as ours? …

Our sense is that these millions of people have quietly accumulated over the years as districts simply added employees in response to sundry needs, demands, and pressures—including state and federal mandates and funding streams—without carefully examining the decisions they were making or considering possible tradeoffs and alternatives. This was the path of least resistance and, at a time of rising budgets, was viable even if not prudent. (pp. 3-4)

Among the Fordham Institute’s findings are alarming statistics like these:

Since 1950, school staffing has increased nearly 400 percent, and non-teaching personnel have played a major part in that growth.

We spend far more on non-teaching staff (as a percentage of education spending) than do most of our economic peers in the OECD

Over the last forty years, the biggest driver of growth in non-teachers has been in the teacher-aide category.

Instead of diverting more than $300 billion from taxpayers wallets to Washington, DC, Americans should be free to put aside funds into tax-free education savings accounts (ESAs). With those funds parents, grandparents, other family members, and charities could provide the education services they believe are best. If people truly believed school administration was as or more important than educators, they’d have the funds to pay for them.

 It’s more likely, however, that absent reams of federal mandates, much of the current school administrative staff would be unnecessary. Under this scenario, individuals empowered with formerly federal education dollars could reward the educators they believe are doing the best job at helping children achieve academically—rather than armies of costly staff in charge of administrative streamlining.