If you thought the Chicago teacher strike was bad—spawning strikes elsewhere in Illinois—you should take a look at Pennsylvania.
Mother Jones has compiled a fascinating map of teacher strikes across America since 1968. By the magazine's reckoning, of 839 strikes total across the country, a mind-boggling 740—or nearly 90 percent—of teacher strikes occurred in Pennsylvania. What's more, Pennsylvania's 500 school districts account for barely 4 percent of U.S. school districts.
According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, teacher strikes in Pennsylvania have declined sharply since the start of the recession (and the PSBA counts even more strikes than Mother Jones). But the drop scarcely dents the state's reputation as the teacher strike capital of America. In the end, allowing teacher strikes and going on hiring sprees harms our students' education—and for their sake, that needs to change.
While Pennsylvania leads the nation in its historic number of teacher strikes, it's following national trends in another way—in the number of employees its public schools are hiring. As the chart below shows, student enrollment is up 5 percent since 1992, while total school personnel increased 32 percent. Given the state's pension crisis, Pennsylvania can ill afford to pay benefits for employees it may not necessarily need.
Since 1950, employment in K-12 education across America has grown astronomically compared to student enrollment, according to a new report from The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice:
Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers' numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.