The Long-Run Impact of the Reduction in Classroom teachers

A recent study, by The Hamilton Project, looked at the impacts of cuts to government employment rolls, including educators. Their findings should open a lot of eyes.

One area where there is a sound body of literature to draw upon is the returns to education – specifically, the impact of class-size on student achievement and lifetime earnings. Drawing on this evidence, we quantify the impact of reductions in the number of public school teachers on our country’s future.

In 2011 there were over 220,000 fewer teachers in America’s classrooms than in 2009, a reduction accounting for nearly forty percent of the decrease in public-sector jobs during this period. This decline in the number of teachers increased the student-teacher ratio by 5.9 percent.

To determine the consequences of these reductions, we assumed that class-size increases were applied equally across all grades in K-12 schools. We then drew from recent research that links future earnings with class size to assess the wage impacts for today’s children, when they become working-age adults.1 All of this is explained in more detail here, but the bottom line is that this research suggests that the Great Recession will live on for decades through the lower future wages for our children.

Of course, an important test for the efficiency of government spending is whether the benefits exceed the costs. The savings from these cuts, in terms of teacher salaries and benefits, are $11.8 billion per year nationwide. While a significant figure, it is substantially smaller than the estimated present value in foregone earnings of $49.3 billion dollars for the children, whose education is affected by larger class sizes. To put a fine point on these findings, this translates into a per-student, per-year loss of nearly $1,000 in future earnings. In summary, the foregone benefits are more than four times larger than the current budget savings!

Investing in classroom teachers then, not only improves the economy today, but vastly improves the economy of the future. There's hardly a better return on investment that can be made. Someone ought to tell columbus lawmakers.