From the comments, on local employment of teachers

The scaling in the chart makes a big difference. Here’s the data behind the chart, which can by found by following a link on the site that Tyler links to: For the local government column only and April figures. (May would be better but the series runs out at April 2011.) April 2011 was at 8.3 million, about 160K less than the peak two Aprils earlier. That’s about 1.5% difference.

That is from RZO, the link and context is here.  In the same comment thread, Frank Howland notes that:

K-12 enrollments fell by 0.85% from 2007 to 2009

That’s not exactly the same years and the data go only to 2009 but could it be a general trend across 2009-2011?  Given that context, there is still some decline in per capita local teacher employment.  Note this is a sector where there is a growing realization that quite a few of the workers should, for non-cyclical reasons, be fired anyway.

Addendum: Karl Smith has a useful graph with seasonal adjustment, coming up with somewhat different numbers.


Is this current data after the states have cut their budgets this year? Do you have data for Aug-Sept 2011?

Nevermind, I see that your data only goes to April 2010.

They're certainly hiring in Seattle this week! I'm not sure how local it is (probably pretty local) but we're evidently coming out of one of our periodic "baby busts." They de-mothballed three schools to handle new elementary students, and now they're trying to digest a surge of middle- and high-school students it doesn't look like they'd expected.

This doesn't really have anything to do at all with whether some teachers need to be fired. No doubt some should be and some of those even will be. But you propose they somehow fire corresponding numbers of students they'll need to be replaced with at least theoretically better teachers.

Budgets are still bloody tight, with PTAs and equivalents shouldering more and more of the load both financially and in terms of volunteer hours (which in turn naturally increases inequity since not all neighborhood schools have parents with vast surpluses of either time or money.)


Again... I would like to see more stress on the fact that the numbers on local education employment cannot be taken as a proxy for how many teachers there are... there are many other people employed by school districts.

Precisely! While the following link only shows projections for post-2009 (I can't find actual US teacher numbers after that year, can anyone help?), the historic data are quite different from the BLS numbers:


Have you shown any evidence that (1) teacher employment contained in the local education numbers are not correlated with teacher employment;

or (2) that there has been a change in the mix of teacher employment to other employment contained in the local education employment numbers?

Bill, stop being obstinate. The numbers for local employment are not for teachers only. See my link above, or go through the census data. Table 615 is the one you need to look at in the 2011 statistical abstract.

Ginslinger: How can you make these assertions WITHOUT PROOF: when you say: "I can’t find actual US teacher numbers after that year, can anyone help?" that tells me something.
I know it is upleasant for someone to point this out, but it needs to be said: no one has shown that teacher employment is not correlated with total education employment or that since 2009 there was a departure from that correlation. Moreover, no one has presented Aug-Sept 2011 but instead relied on periods where there was state aid or stimulus assistance to state and local governments.

But, you are right about one thing: I am obstinate.

Did you read anything else I wrote? Try this, "the historic data are quite different from the BLS numbers." You want to look for correlation, do so with the numbers you've been provided.

Gin, Your burden of proof. How can you then say: “I can’t find actual US teacher numbers after that year, can anyone help?”

Bill, you're the one asserting correlation. All I said was the the numbers reported aren't what people are calling them. See, e.g. the title of Karl Smith's post.

I've proven my assertion (with historical data) anything else is your ball.

Gin, Oh, I get it, JA asserts that teacher employment hasn't declined because total education employment includes non-teachers, and that has declined. That is an assertion that teacher employment is uncrorrelated to total educational employment. Then Gin says: I don't have teacher employment numbers, can you help me, and I agree with JA. Then Gin says: your assertion of correlated is your burden, not JA who asserted uncorellated.

The only rule I can figure is that whoever goes first doesn't bear the burden of proof.

"The only rule I can figure is that whoever goes first doesn’t bear the burden of proof."

Those who went first are the ones making the implicit assumption that layoffs in the "local government education" sector (which bears no resemblance, historically, to the numbers reported by the National Center for Educational Statistics) correlates to fired teachers. See, the first movers were those who assumed a correlation between the two. I mean, you do realized those FRED and BLS numbers are based on select surveys? But, anyone who questions their application to a complex system with many moving parts is the one who needs to put forth proof?

Here's some numbers for 2010 teaching employment that suggests that the NCES projections were under:

Anyway, to mimic your words from another thread, I'm not going to do any more homework for you. If you want to establish correlation (which no one has yet done, though it is frequently implied) between the BLS survey numbers for total state and local education employment and teachers, do so. But don't ask those who point out no such correlation has been established to produce a non-correlation.

The birth rate in the US crossed 4 million/year in 2000 and peaked in 2007. These students are just entering public school now and enrollment will rise for a few years yet.

On the other hand, over 100 districts have already gone to a four day week and I'm sure class sizes are expanding to save a dime. The kids just entering school now are going to lose out.

At the college level you've got the peaking of the millenial generation, who are stretching out their education in an attempt to out educated their peers.. so enrollment is up. Hooray for that, tuition rates will continue climbing.

Karl Smith's graphs make more sense, intuitively at least. We've seen tons of news regarding teacher layoffs on massive scales across various states, with no concurrent news of a dramatic increase of hiring, or new schools being built; it seems improbable that employment overall stayed the same, as the BLS graph in your original post showed.

OK, so that's not a scientific comparison. But If teacher employment really was stable, then I wouldn't expect to see so much reporting on teacher layoffs. Unless if anyone has a theory that could reconcile that?

"But If teacher employment really was stable, then I wouldn’t expect to see so much reporting on teacher layoffs. Unless if anyone has a theory that could reconcile that?"

I have a couple. First, an analogy: why do local governments always threaten the most radical layoffs/cut-backs when facing budget crunches (police, fire, and parks are always the places put forward to cut)? They rarely go in front of the public to say, "we're going to reduce overtime for non-critical employees (office assistants, road crews, permit inspectors, et al.), scale back on non-essential spending increases, reduce the hours for libraries, activity centers, etc." Why do you think that is?

As to an answer: it's good news, it raises fears and motivates an electorate to cave on budget positions. Instead of districts saying "we're facing tough financial times, we're going to have to scale back the number of administrators and support staff, and reduce some expenditures on extra-curriculars," they say, "ZOMG WE'LL HAVE TO FIRE ALL YOUR CHILDREN'S TEACHERS!" Then, it's slightly easier to pass the bond measure, or raise property taxes.

Here is another theory: not all school districts are the same. We see a lot of stories about teacher layoffs in various districts, mostly urban. This are precisely the areas that have not seen a growth in the number of students. Take DC as an example: the 2010-2011 school year may (I say may because the numbers are preliminary) have been the first year in a decade or so in which student enrollment increased, yet the growth in the number of teachers did not abate when the student population did not increase (this addresses Peter's point on the growth rate of the number of students as well). Thus in a time of tight budgets, when city and school district leaders are looking at their payrolls and see that they have added teachers while not increasing enrollment, they feel that they can "cut some fat."

Also, their is a media bias to focus on bad news. Stories on layoffs in one school district are more appealing than stories about dispersed hirings in the many other districts. You can't expect to get a full picture by reading the news since the news is not focusing on the full picture.

There have been many teacher layoffs this summer. What school districts are doing is laying off as many teachers as they think they can each summer. Now that students are back in school, districts will wait until later this month, when many states do a "count day," and then decide how many teachers they need to call back to avoid surpassing statutory pupils-per-teacher limits. This practice has been common for the past two years, all across the Midwest at least, and each year the number of teachers that actually get called back has decreased.

Yes, this in part driven by enrollment, but it is also driven by budget shortfalls. While districts used to try to employee the number of teachers they thought they needed to educate the students, now most are employing the number they must have to avoid breaking the law. In addition, there have been a lot of forced early retirements, as there have in many industries, which the numbers do not reflect. Districts have been forced to cut benefits, including retiree health plans, creating incentives for eligible teachers to go ahead and retire before their benefits get any worse.

1.5% decline is pretty terrible when you consider the structure of unionized teacher employment: Most teachers are locked in for their 30 year career. Regardless of the need for non-cyclical layoffs, they generally can't happen with existing contracts (see rubber rooms, etc).

Meaning, for employment to decline, it generally means less hiring of replacements for retiring teachers. There is a decline of 1.5% instead of the 1%+ish needed to keep up with population scaling. I don't know the exact length of a teacher's career, but if it's 20-30ish years, that means only 3-5% of the jobs are up for replacement a year... For employment to decline by 1.5%, 1/2 to 1/3 of those openings must go unfilled, and therefore 1/2 to 1/3 of the graduates trained for teaching will not find employment out of college.

Mind you the effects are highly variable with locality... Miami-Dade county has not hired a new full-time teacher in 2-3 years. 1.5% decline in employment can look find and dandy... if you step far enough back, with conveniently unrealistic assumptions about efficiency in the hiring and firing progress, particularly if you then use logarithmic scaling. With the actual context more fully considered, complaints can be understood and assessed as the rational feedback it is...

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