The Blob: Other School
Employees Besides Teachers
Q. I was looking at our middle school's staff list in
the student handbook. I started noticing that relatively few of the employees
listed were actually classroom teachers in core subjects. There were all kinds
of people working there who weren't actually teaching kids. We've always had
the janitor and the lunch ladies, but this is getting ridiculous. I thought
regular classroom teachers made up something like 80 percent of school staff,
but the actual number is less than 50 percent now, according to our district's
staff roster. What's up with all these nonteachers working in our schools?
talking about "The Blob." That's the term for the incredible amount of
non-instructional staffing in public schools today. By "non-instructional"
is meant people who are employed in
nonacademic or at least non-teaching areas of public education. The term, "The
Blob," was coined by former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett about the
vast, powerful, insulated and fortified education establishment which has
caused massive new spending in K-12 education in recent years.
must be said that many of these school district and school bureaucracy employees
are essential and schools wouldn't run nearly as well without them. A lot of
their functions didn't exist a generation or two ago: computer technicians,
clerical workers to deal with all the government paperwork that wasn't required
a generation ago, and almost the entire special education staff, for example.
the other hand, there are those who say the problem with our schools is too
many people on staff chasing too few tasks, in order to justify their jobs, and
creating a lot of costly overcomplication that interferes with the simplicity
of the learning curve. Many of these non-teaching employees make much more
money per hour working for the public school district than they would make if
they worked in the private sector. The implication is that they SHOULD be
working in the private sector, and contracting to do that work for the schools,
to save a lot of taxpayer money.
many of those who don't like the growth of government, the fact that the schools,
which are units of government, are employing these people to do these tasks in
the first place is an unfair assault on the local private sector. Why? Because
government jobs siphon off business from the private sector. Since school
staffers are completing those tasks on the public's payroll, there's less work
and services available for private-sector businesses to complete and help their
businesses survive and thrive.
school-based preschools and before- and after-school latchkey day care workers
. . . in-school counselors and psychologists . . . assessment directors . . .
painters . . . carpenters . . . public relations staff . . . printing staff . .
. security staff . . . caterers . . . assistant principals, associate
observers believe that spending per pupil could be brought into line with
taxpayers' ability to continue to pay for public education if a lot of the
excess, non-educational staff could be laid off, and their functions bid out to
the private-sector for completion at far less cost.
would like to see The Blob trimmed back, chiefly in non-classroom employment
areas, and for schools to move to privatization wherever possible.
Blob sprawls from the organizational lobbying going on by nearly 40 special-interest
groups and professional associations in Washington, D.C., each of which has an
agenda that involves spending more taxpayer money.
Blob's wellspring and key cheerleading comes from the teachers' colleges across
is populated and funded by the politically powerful teachers' unions.
ways are entrenched by the remote, monolithic federal and state education
prophets are the nationally-known consultants, speakers, ideologically-based
researchers, and activists.
on down to the local level, there are the school boards and committees,
district employees, special-interest groups, vendors and contractors, often the
Parent Teacher Association leadership, and affiliates of the national Blob's
organizations and associations, all working to amass more money and power for
of all of the political power in the form of contributions and votes promised
by The Blob to ambitious politicians, school staffing has gradually expanded
'way beyond classroom teachers into the other types of personnel who make their
living in the education field but aren't really teachers.
cynical view is that these jobs were created and defended to "grow" union
membership. That might explain why the teachers' unions are constantly lobbying
for more and more nonacademic functions to be started in public school
settings. More resources . . . more jobs . . . more union members.
antidote? How to shrink The Blob?
activism by parents and the public to reduce overstaffing, because the costs
are threatening to sink the educational ship. The public generally has no idea
how big the non-teaching staffs have become in K-12 education. They should be
informed of the cost of this practice.
always need non-teaching employees in our schools. But to keep them and our
children afloat, we need to throw at least some of The Blob overboard. And
don't worry: they won't sink, they'll swim, because the same jobs they're doing
in schools exist in the "real" world, too.
16, "Parents and Education Reform," in The Educated Child: A Parent's Guide, by
William J. Bennett.