In recent weeks, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken much heat for his proposal to cut aid to schools in order to balance the state’s budget. He has asked the teachers’ unions to take a salary freeze for this year to absorb the cut. Instead of a pay freeze for teachers many school districts are opting to increase property taxes, fire support staff, curtail atheletics and in at least one case, close the Kindergarten.
New Jersey is not the only state that is cutting aid to school districts. The Wall Street Journal reports that New York Governor Paterson also proposes cutting aid to school districts to close the state’s $9.2 billion budget gap. The worry of the education establishment is that the cuts will lead to 14,000 teacher layoffs. But as a recent study by E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center for New York State Policy shows at least that many positions were added as student enrollment declined. Between 2000-2001 and 2008-2009, New York added 14,765 teachers and 8,655 support staff, while student enrollment dropped by 121, 280 pupils.
The rationale for teacher expansion is to reduce class size, a policy that tends to be favored by the teachers’ unions. New York’s student-teacher ratio at 13.3 is already lower than the national average of 15.5. And the benefits of reduced class size may be more costly and not as effective as proponents claim.