Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Debbie Stabenow were quick to praise the new "edujobs" bill passed by the House Tuesday as part of a "stimulus II" package (and despite it lacking a legal title). Among other legislation it will dole out $310 million to Michigan public schools, with the hopes of "saving" 4,700 teacher jobs.
Those "saved" jobs are actually a bit of a red herring: As explained in a recent Mackinac Center "School Funding Myths" series, because of advance layoff notice requirements and other budget inflexibilities imposed by most school employee collective bargaining agreements, districts here typically send out thousands of "just in case" pink slips in June. Almost all the "laid off" employees retain their jobs come September.
In response to the passage, Gov. Granholm pointed out that the legislation adds nothing to the $13 trillion national deficit, since it's funded with cuts to other federal government programs — like food stamps. (The same solicitude for future taxpayers was not in evidence when Congress included $100 billion for public schools in last year's "stimulus" bill.) The Governor insists that the $310 million will be for "real people" though, rather than merely feeding the government school bureaucracy.
Perhaps, but that bureaucracy has been growing rapidly nevertheless, according to data from the Center for Educational Performance and Information. The number of full-time administrative school employees rose 10 percent between 2003 and 2009, even though the number of students fell by 6 percent. There used to be one full-time administrative staffer for every 86 students, now there's one for every 73 kids. Over the same period, the number of full-time school consultants, coordinators, supervisors, directors and "other support staff" rose by 23 percent.
Sen. Stabenow lauded the bill for its ability to keep class sizes down, saying it'd be the "difference between 25 or 50 kids in the classroom." However, the legislation does not include the words "teacher," "class," or "student" anywhere in the relevant sections.
In any event, a 100 percent jump in class size would be a remarkable phenomenon: The 2009 average pupil-teacher ratio in Michigan was 22.6, a 15-year low. The state would have to eliminate 60 percent of the teaching corps to achieve a pupil-teacher ratio of 50. Furthermore, nearly all teacher contracts contain provisions that cap class size. This normally varies from 22 to 32, depending on the grade level. If districts exceed the class size limit, they are required by the union agreement to either hire an instructional aide, reorganize the classes in the grade level, or pay a stipend to the teacher.