Staffing a K-12 school is expensive—on average, four-fifths of a school’s budget is earmarked for staff salaries and benefits. As the effects from the financial crisis of 2008 linger throughout school systems nationwide, you may be facing growing concerns about how to stay within your budget without sacrificing student achievement throughout your district.
This fall, enrollment in K-12 public schools in the United States reached a landmark 50.7 million. The US spends roughly $11,500 per public-school student each year, while Education Week also reports that total expenditures nationwide for public schools exceeded $649 billion for the 2014-15 school year. That’s a huge amount—and yet education costs are constantly climbing, even while budgets are tightening. Classroom sizes are growing while staff positions are being eliminated in an attempt to compensate for budget shortfalls.
The answer to the question of how much K-12 education staffing costs hinges on too many variables to provide a one-size-fits-all answer. The staffing costs for your specific school district will be determined by your district size, geographic location, enrollment figures, local, state, and federal funding levels, and much more. But by equipping yourself with knowledge about the state of school funding and by considering strategies to help you make the most of a restrictive budget, you can manage your K-12 staffing costs while still ensuring all students in your district receive a high-quality education.
The State of School Funding and K-12 Education Staffing in 2019
The funding mix for public schools hasn’t changed very much in the last decade. State and local taxes still make up about 90% of school funding sources, with the federal government supplying the balance. One factor that needs acknowledgement is the failure of school funding levels to catch up with pre-2008 standards. In fact, twelve states have reduced funding per student by 7% or greater since the subprime mortgage crisis rocked the nation. An additional 29 states still provide lower levels of funding per student than had been in place a decade ago. As a consequence, tough financial choices continually plague school officials, who must strive to boost student performance with fewer resources.
Given the large amount your district spends on staffing, you may be tempted to take aim at salaries and benefits to find some fiscal relief from year to year. However, any combination of layoffs, hiring freezes, and teacher attrition will force districts to either increase classroom sizes or seek other means to relieve the pressure. Before setting your sights on these kinds of radical staffing changes, you may be able to control how much K-12 education staffing costs in your district by adopting a more corporate mindset.
Seek the Aid of Qualified Education Staffing Professionals
Corporations know when to delegate responsibility by handing off challenging duties that would otherwise consume too much valuable time of skilled professionals. Follow their lead by giving your absence management duties to a staffing management firm that specializes in partnering with K-12 organizations.
Many districts have embraced contracting as a way to ensure they’re always staffed with skilled, qualified workers, including short or long-term substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, office staff, food-service workers, custodians, maintenance personnel, and more. Educational staffing management companies greatly extend the capabilities of your school district’s human resources department; they can also independently manage the end-to-end acquisition and deployment of substitute teachers and paraprofessionals. These companies can save you the time and headaches associated with K-12 education staffing while providing you with trained, qualified staff.
While your school district is not a private company, consider applying this lesson of successful business leaders to the way you run—and staff—your schools.
Professionals Can Help You Manage Your K-12 Education Staffing Costs
K-12 education staffing will always be expensive, however it shouldn’t be wasteful or inefficient. A staffing management firm will make sure your staffing needs are met in the most effective possible way, to benefit both you and your students. The right firm can help your K-12 school system streamline its education staffing costs by relieving all the time and stress involved with recruiting, hiring, and training, as well as the ongoing headaches of managing payroll and benefits.
Ed Keating is a school business manager who blogs about concrete solutions to the many financial and administrative issues facing school districts today. In his spare time, Ed enjoys fishing, backpacking, and camping with his wife and two daughters, Molly and Anne.