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Learning Curve

  • An F for transparency
    “Look at this shiny thing over here!” – Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Oct. 14, 2014.

Layoffs follow hiring spree? just posted an interesting story exploring the connection between pink slips and hiring in U.S. schools, suggesting that the wave of teacher layoffs resulting from funding shortfalls follows a hiring spree.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Education Association show the rate of new hires was more than double the rate of student enrollmentment growth:

"The NEA's annual 'Rankings & Estimates' report shows that from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, student enrollment increased from 46.6 million to 48.9 million, an increase of about 5 percent. The number of K-12 classroom teachers during that time period rose from 2.89 million to 3.2 million, an increase of 11 percent."

A researcher with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers a reasonable explanation:

"With accountability and No Child Left Behind, there was increased pressure to raise results, and districts and states responded by adding adults," said Marguerite Roza, "That was the dominant reform model of the last decade."

In addition to hiring teachers to reduce class sizes, schools have increasingly chosen to hire instructional coaches and interventionists in an effort to bolster achievement. The latter is the case at Fort Wayne Community Schools, where the administration chose last year to use federal stimulus dollars to reassign teachers to those positions, in the hopes that retirements would allow the district to reduce its teacher rolls by attrition when the federal dollars ran out. The district's share of $300 million in K-12 cuts statewide this year meant that layoffs were inevitable.

The irony here is that a Republican president's massive education program resulted in tremendous growth in public-sector jobs. Now, the economic mess created by the same president is wiping out that growth.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at