What’s Going Up in Education
As Marc and I have been illustrating, there are a number of ways to cut the data on education expenditures. That, indeed, is what makes it possible for unionists to declare this or that slice decisive, even if reality disagrees.
In the comments to Marc’s post, for example, NEA Assistant Executive Director Pat Crowley seizes on Marc’s observation that “the piece [of the education expenditure pie] that went to the teachers stayed relatively the same” from 2004 to 2007. In Crowley’s estimation, that fact is proof that “collective bargaining costs are not what is driving the costs in education.” Pat’s really going for the bold, here, because “instructional teachers” spending is not the only subcategory directly dependent upon collective bargaining. He’s also ignoring the fact that total education spending has gone up an average of 6% every year this decade (both per student and overall).
If the question is what subcategory of spending is driving up the cost of education in Rhode Island — or inversely, which subcategory has been soaking up our increasing investment therein — then the most direct insight will come from a graph depicting the per-student spending on each:
In the extended entry, I’ve provided similar graphs for various school districts that I found to be of interest for one reason or another. (I’d be happy to run more districts if readers have specific requests.) There are, of course, town-to-town variations that might be of interest to those familiar with the local particulars,* but the basic story is the same: Between roughly 2003 and 2005, funding switched from paraprofessionals (classroom aides and such) to therapists and other special- needs–related employees,** and funding for teachers has never ceased its climb. That, again, is excluding other subcategories that could justifiably be tacked on to the cost of teachers and — even more — teachers’ unions.
* I find it interesting, for example, that Tiverton has seen such an unusual increase in pass-throughs, which include out-of-district services for special needs students as well as the limited resources redirected to private schools (such as some transportation costs and books). One reason could be that families that were priced out of better-performing districts like Portsmouth and Barrington opted for private school; another could be an increasing inclination to flee the public schools for any of the multiple private options available in the area. The protracted union “negotiations” can’t have helped in that regard. It’s also notable that Providence has such relatively low per-student spending on teachers. Whether that indicates a comparative lack of city funding or of state funding, I don’t know.
** This shift from paraprofessionals to therapists probably explains why Crowley picked 2004 as the year for comparison with 2007: At the state level, 2004 marked the peak for paraprofessionals, which are counted in the “instruction” category that Crowley incorrectly uses as a stand-in for “teachers.” His game is propaganda, not analysis.