During the Franklin Center's Amplify Choice Conference, which was held at the end of January 2015 in Washington, D.C., Ben Scafidi, Professor of Economics at Georgia College & State University discussed the economics of school choice.
Professor Scafidi presentation was one of the most interesting. There were a number of points made by the professor that made a memorable impression.
According to professor Scafidi, many more academics are opposed to school choice than support it:
"For every professor, like me, who supports school choice there are probably forty that don't. They can't gin up one study that finds school choice harms one student."
When Professor Scafidi said that I thought he was joking. But it may help explain why there are a lot of studies that find positive benefits from school choice programs and a lot of studies that find no benefit from school choice programs.
The main take away from Professor's presentation was the huge public school hiring spree between 1950 and 2010.
To answer whether school choice harms local or state school budgets Professor Scafidi compared the growth in staffing in public schools to the increase in the number of students. During the sixty-year period of 1950 to 2009 the number of students doubled, yet the increase in school personnel was about four times greater than the increase in students. Teachers increased two and a half times the number of students and the number of non-teaching staff increased seven times the growth in the number of students. During the sixty-year period the student/pupil ratio went from 18 to eight students per employee.
Professor Scafidi also presented numbers showing the public school hiring spree has continued through 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
Despite the 60-year hiring spree, student achievement did not improve. Public high school graduation rates are about the same as they were in 1970. Test scores have remained flat.
After getting participants in the Amplify Choice Conference to understand folly of continuing the public school hiring spree of non-teaching positions, Professor Scafidi asked participants to consider the opportunity continually adding staff with no evidence of any improvement in student achievement. What could be done with billions of dollars used to pay for all the additional non-teaching staff which have not improved student achievement?