Cry Wolf! This Budget Crunch Is for Real

Eric A. Hanushek
Published Date
Education Week
pp. 32-40
We are entering the season for dire warnings about the loss of teacher jobs unless school funding is improved. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has given high-level credibility to this story by providing administration support to Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s new $23 billion stimulus bill in Congress. Reporting about projected teacher pink slips is an annual game, dating back well before the current recession. Little note is made, however, when teacher employment actually continues to grow much more rapidly than student enrollment. In the most recent data, for example, we see that student enrollment in 2007 is 22 percent greater than in 1990, but teacher employment is 41 percent greater. Since 2000, the comparable figures are 5 percent for growth in enrollment and 10 percent for teachers. While the public is starting to be suspicious, it still gives schools a PR advantage in the political jockeying for funds. But the other side is equally interesting. Schools have found the “crying wolf” strategy always effective and thus have never really thought much about how to adjust...