Who Are America's Schools Laying Off? Not Teachers, Mostly

The end of summer means America's kids are headed back to school, where the hallways and offices will be slightly emptier than last year.

From May through July, local governments let go roughly 28,000 education workers, according to the Labor Department, continuing the long period of layoffs that stretches back to 2008. With a new academic year in front of us, I wanted to take stock of exactly what those cuts might mean for schools by looking at who has been getting the ax: teachers, or other workers, such as administrators? Are kids suddenly being funneled into larger classes, or there just fewer assistant principals roaming the halls? 

The answer might be somewhat comforting to parents: Over the last few years, a least, it's mostly been employees in the "other" category getting pink slips. 

The graph below is based on data from the Census' annual survey of state and local government payrolls, which recently released its numbers for 2011. At least through last year, non-instructional staff have suffered the brunt of layoffs since the recession. 

Schools_Firehouses_and_Police_Stations.PNG

It's not just schools following this firing pattern. Police departments have fired fewer officers than administrative staffers. Fire departments have added firefighters and cut other employees. So when it comes to essential functions, state and local governments appear to have focused cuts on the administrative end, while keeping as many employees around as possible to provide services.

Even if fears that school layoffs are mostly devastating teachers are misplaced, that doesn't mean parents shouldn't care that public schools across the country will be using the next year to teach themselves a lesson for the future: how to maintain the quality of their school with fewer workers.

Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In