The Edmond Sun

Opinion

April 25, 2014

Oklahoma administrative growth dwarfs student growth

EDMOND — Amid the ongoing discussion of whether Oklahoma’s public education system needs more money, an important point is often overlooked: According to data that the state of Oklahoma reports to the U.S. Department of Education, Oklahoma school district administration has been growing dramatically.

According to a new analysis by economist Benjamin Scafidi, “Using the time period available, FY 1998 to FY 2011, Oklahoma public schools increased employment in school district administration by 49 percent, while the number of students in Oklahoma public schools increased by only 6 percent. In other words, in Oklahoma public schools, school district administration employment increased over eight times faster than its student population.”

Scafidi says if Oklahoma’s increase in bureaucratic overhead had simply mirrored the increase in students, the annual cost savings would exceed $229 million. That’s money Oklahoma’s political leaders could have used to cut taxes, improve our roads and bridges, or do any number of things — including raising teacher salaries by $4,924.

We’ve now reached the point that “only half of Oklahoma’s public education employees are teachers,” as Greg Forster pointed out in 2011. “The bureaucracy is now so big, it takes up half the system.”

According to Forster, “There’s absolutely no reason for any sector of government to directly employ bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, or any of the rest of this category. The whole enchilada needs to be privatized posthaste. You wouldn’t just eliminate unnecessary positions that are there due to featherbedding, although that’s considerable. More important, though, you’d be able to pay the market rate for the positions you kept, instead of hyperinflated civil-service salaries and benefits. And you’d be able to fire people if they didn’t deliver good services.”

When only half of Oklahoma’s public education employees are teachers — and the administrative growth shows no sign of letting up — Oklahoma’s political leaders should ask themselves if more money is really the answer.

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident (M.A. in public policy, M.A. in journalism, Regent University), is senior vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He’s the editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint. His articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Forbes.com, WORLD magazine, the Tulsa World, The Oklahoman and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S.

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Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

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