In a recent interview, President Obama hints at the core of his much-anticipated jobs plan:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: what we do have, I think, is the capacity to do some things right now that would make a big difference …
TOM JOYNER: Like?
OBAMA: For example, putting people to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools all across America…
We’ve got the capacity right now to help local school districts make sure that they’re not laying off more teachers. We haven’t been as aggressive as we need to, both at the state and federal level.
So we haven’t been aggressive enough with our hiring at the K-12 level, hmm? Perhaps I’m an unusually timid sort, but the trend below looks pretty darn aggressive to me: k-12 employment has been growing 10 times faster than enrollment for forty years.
And the $300 billion question is: what impact has doubling the workforce had on the cost and performance of America’s public schools? According to federal government data, the answer is this:
We’ve nearly tripled the cost of sending a child all the way through the K-12 system, while performance near the end of high school has been stagnant (reading and math) or even declining (science). Just returning to the staff-to-student ratio of 1980 would save almost $150 billion annually—and somehow students weren’t performing noticeably differently in the ’80s than today.
And yet President Obama apparently wants more hiring and more spending. I wonder if voters will want more of President Obama if he indeed continues to flog the failed policies of the past two generations?
See this essay for more on federal K-12 education subsidies.