Teachers are officially on strike in Los Angeles, the second-largest school district in the nation, leaving half a million children in 900 schools under the direction of just 400 substitute teachers, while the adults work out the problems of the school system. The district serves a high percentage of low-income children, leaving many working parents scrambling to find back-up childcare.
It’s true that teacher salaries have been stagnant in some states over the last couple decades, but pointing the finger at taxpayers for failing to cough up ignores the facts of education funding.
Many Americans think that the education system is underfunded. In reality, the United States is among the highest per-pupil spenders in the world, which has gotten us only mediocre results. That’s often because the money we spend never makes its way to the classroom. While taxpayers imagine that their dollars go to teacher salaries, classroom supplies, and learning, the money instead ends up funding items like huge pensions and the salaries of non-teaching bureaucrats.
The hiring of non-teaching staff has exploded in our school districts. Since 1950, student enrollment has almost doubled. But over the same time period, non-teaching employment in schools has risen over 700 percent. And paying all those bureaucrats is enormously expensive.
In California, where teachers are striking today, the state has spent over $3 billion on “extra” non-teaching staff just in the last couple decades. If the state had matched bureaucracy growth to the growth of student enrollment since 1992, it could give every single teacher an $11,000 raise overnight.
That same $3 billion could also pay for almost 400,000 flexible scholarships, called education savings accounts or ESAs, creating options for the students and families who are being affected by the teacher strikes this week.
Education is critical and American taxpayers are happy to invest in our children’s futures. But more investment in a broken system, which refuses to prioritize students, teachers, and classrooms, will only lead to the same problems. Instead, we should empower families by giving them control over the funds for their children’s educations.
They’ll spend it better than hordes of bureaucrats ever will.