Over the last three years, state and local government employment has dropped by 641,000 as state and local budgets have been squeezed as a result of the recession. With kids heading back to the classroom this fall, it’s worth considering how much of that drop has hit public schools.
Of the decline in state and local government jobs over the last three years, close to half (278,000) was in local government education, which is largely jobs in public K-12 education (the majority of which are teachers but also includes teacher aides, librarians, guidance counselors, administrators, support staff, etc). On the other hand, over the same period, public K-12 enrollment increased by 0.6 percent (using the actual and projected enrollment growth rates found in Table 1 here). Just to keep up with this growth in the student population, employment in local public education should have grown at roughly the same rate, which would have meant adding around 48,000 jobs. Putting these numbers together (i.e., what was lost plus what should have been added to keep up with the expanding student population) means that the total jobs gap in local public education as a result of the Great Recession and its aftermath is around 326,000.
This decline means not only larger class sizes, but also fewer teacher aides, fewer extra-curricular activities and a narrower curriculum for our children. Furthermore, this number almost surely understates the real gap. Between 2008 to 2010, the number of children living in poverty increased by 2.3 million, and is likely even higher today. Increased child poverty increases the need for services provided through schools. Instead, public schools have fewer personnel and fewer resources to educate more students, and more students with greater needs.