Saturday, September 14, 2019

Why Classrooms Have So Few Resources

Every year when I taught, I had a list of items to buy for my classroom. In South Carolina, the state I retired from, teachers got a check ($275) for these supplies. In the last 2 years, we needed to account for the purchases, by itemizing them on a one-page list, and submitting it for reimbursement.

I never had a problem with that. Almost all the teachers I knew easily matched, or exceeded the amount of the check on their classrooms. And, by buying the items yourself, you could get exactly the type of pen, clipboard, or marker you wanted. As a lefty, the extra money spent on pens that didn't smear was well worth it.

But, why is it only teachers have to buy their own supplies/work tools? Why doesn't the school secretary, or nurse, or Diversity Coordinator, have to bring in their own pens, paper, or printer ink?

The answer is: because teachers are soft-hearted suckers.

This essay provides the major reason schools are so broke - many, if not MOST, of the staff is NOT in the classroom. They are support staff, not line staff (if you don't understand that, talk to someone who worked in a manufacturing facility). They do NOT contribute to the bottom line. Their job is NOT directly connected to teaching.

Now, most women (and some men) will have a hard time to understand this point. They will argue that they work VERY hard, and that their job is critical to the business/organization they work for.

Don't flatter yourself. The bottom line is:
Do you DIRECTLY bring in money to the organization?
If the answer is no, then you are staff - and that job is not, technically, necessary to the functioning of the organization.

Now, realistically, in most businesses, staff frees up the line workers to make more widgets. Without them, those who do make money for the organization would lose time from their main job.

But, don't kid yourself - those jobs are the ones that SHOULD be eliminated (or suffer a reduction in hours) in a financial crisis. And, they NEVER are the ones on the block in a school funding 'crisis'.


  • Teachers currently working in a classroom/resource room
  • Attendance staff (yes, because their work brings in money from the state - the higher the attendance, the more money)
  • Bus drivers/bus program - I'm gonna be generous, and put them here, since, without them providing the delivery of the widgets (kids) to school, the production department (teachers) wouldn't have the raw materials to work with

  • Clerical staff - if I'm generous, I might allow that perhaps 1/4 of their time is related to things that bring in money
  • Janitorial/custodial/maintenance - brings in no cash
  • Cafeteria - yes, they do get money from students or the government to run the breakfast/lunch program, but most of these run in the red
  • Library - that's an auxiliary service - useful, and worth keeping, but not bringing in cash
  • Counseling - most schools would improve without them
  • Administration, which includes the district's central offices
You could argue with some of the classifications, but it's pretty clear that schools are top-heavy with peripheral workers - MOST of them women. They work in clean and orderly surroundings, seldom encounter unruly students or parents, get paid well - often better than the teachers, and leave at the end of the day without a care (principals/assistant principals are the exception here - their jobs usually extend LONG after school hours, and include many other appearances at sports events, banquets, plays, etc.)

From my days teaching, I know that, whether the heat/cooling system is working in the classrooms, it ALWAYS does in the working areas of the staff. We could be wilting at 95+ degrees in the class, but, if you walked into the main office, it would be an icy 70 degrees.

One rule for the Elite, another for the Proles.


Jess said...

The support staff is much like parasites. Easy to get, but hard to get rid of.

Linda Fox said...

Actually, the best way to start the process is to outsource most of them. Announce that you will be transitioning them to outside agencies.

Leave their salaries the same (for now). Yes, it will be more expensive, but there's a plan underneath this.

Get them used to the new situation, then, start removing positions - starting with the most difficult people. There's always someone on staff that is deadweight, and, often, they are also a source of gossip and backstabbing. Don't bother with building a case against them; instead, declare a reorganization of the structure, and eliminate that position.

Let the contracting agency deliver the news; let them tell the former employee that they will, of course, work VERY hard to find them a suitable replacement position. Whether or not they do so, it's no longer the school's problem.

Use the money saved to offer ONE-time bonuses to those remaining in the department, along with your thanks for "taking up the slack in these difficult times". Have the manager of the department brainstorm with the staff about how they can reduce the workload by eliminating unnecessary work. Streamline procedures and paperwork.

Then, do it again. And again. Until the staff is 1/2 or less of what they were before.

Linda Fox said...

Of that sacked employee, do NOT hire them back, whether directly or through the agency.

Glenda T Goode said...

So much of what schools in our area have as far as staffing and costs are directly due to the state regulations and requirements. There is so much 'social' management being done in the academic setting that used to be the parents responsibility. While on the surface and to the outsider who probably does not pay school taxes, these new programs and policies seem wonderful. The fact is that each installs a new layer of bureaucracy that must be compensated, accommodated and managed.

Nationalizing the school curriculum is the virtual nail in the coffin of local schools actually being run by the local population. Each step in 'standardizing' standards in education is a step away from the parents actually having a comprehensive role in their kids education. Instead 'regulations' and academic 'standards' are used and in pretty much all cases, the parents have literally no say at all as the decisions made for these systems are done by politicians.

The absolute rule regarding bureaucracies regardless of where and what they are is that they take care of themselves first and then do their jobs second and oftentimes that is not the case as their growth of their class of employment is more important than their jobs as well.

Government. Schools. Even industry all share aspects of this burdensome and inefficient way of doing things.

Lurking Reader said...

After being laid off from the Space Shuttle Program, I became a middle school 8th grade science teacher in the public school system in Florida. I worked in a Title 1 school (teachers will know what that means) full of tough kids with broken homes and lives. For their science project, I had them design and send up experiments 20 miles (edge of space) and our local TV station covered it. Though I had done all the footwork, including obtaining funding from a grant, the administration told me they thought it was a “waste of money” and the other science teachers said, “Who do you think you are?”
After three years of teaching, I walked away from the school system and focused on adults only via college and trade school. As a father and taxpayer, I was outraged at what I saw in the public school system. It is broken and the “support” staff will always prefer it that way. It cannot be fixed without burning the whole thing down and starting from scratch. When parents ask me about which school to send their child, I always answer “homeschool.”