Despite Obama’s Demands For More Teachers, Classroom Sizes Are Actually Shrinking


According to the Obama administration, the best way to stimulate the private sector is to grow the government. “[W]e need to accelerate job creation in the private sector,” Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod told CNN. “One of the ways that we can do that is putting teachers and firefighters and police back to work because those are good middle-class jobs.”

Economically speaking, Axelrod comments don’t make any sense, yet they’re still compelling because…who is against firefighters and teachers?

To hear Axelrod tell it, we’re employing fewer teachers. But is that really true? Noel Sheppard does the math, and finds out it isn’t true at all:

In 1960, there were 1.4 million public school teachers educating 36.3 million primary and secondary students. This represented a ratio of one teacher per 25.8 pupils.

In 2009, there were 3.2 million teachers – a 129 percent rise – educating 49.3 million students – a 36 percent rise. This represented a ratio of one teacher per 15.6 students.

You read that correctly: despite all the media carping and whining, average class size in this country has dropped by over ten students or 40 percent in the last 50 years.

By the way, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of firefighters is expected to grow by 9% and police officer employment by 7%.

I know inflating the government payroll would be great news for President Obama’s allies in the public worker unions, but it’s not what will get the economy going.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Edd

    Thanks for the statistics! After reading this, it is hard to argue that we need to increase funding just to hire more. Plus this does not include all the aids schools use now for the special needs kids that are being mainstreamed now.

  • borborygmi

     I hope you aren’t against the special needs kids mainstreamed or the aides that go with them.

    • robert108

      This article is for the truth and against lies.

      • borborygmi

        so you are against special needs kids and the aids that go with them?

  • SigFan

    The left’s answer to every problem is that we simply aren’t trashingspending enough money on it.  How they can explain the failures of public education on class sizes and too few teachers when the standards and class sizes and outcomes were much different in the past is evidence of their widening disconnect from rationality and reality.

  • WOOF

    Students ride unicorns to schools with 15.6 kids a classroom.

  • Game

    Rob Port Qutestion:

    “who is against firefighters and teachers?”

    Answer: Republicans

    In the past 50 years, the time that is covered in the above “stats”, we have added an extra year of school (kindergarten) and we have added new programs that increase the ablity of schools to teach kids that would not have been given any opportunity to learn 50 years ago (title 1 and Special Education). The dropout rate in 1960 was about 27% and today it is 8%, so the extra teachers are paying off.

    • robert108

      Kindergarten is a lot more than 50 years old, so you got that wrong.  You might have a point about more teachers and a lower dropout rate, but you didn’t connect the dots to establish a real cause and effect argument, so it’s coincidence, not causation.
      Nice try.

      • Game

        In 1960, only about half of all students in the United States went to Kindergarten, today, it is about 89%. Only a small percentage of kindergartens in 1960 were all day every day. One teacher could teach multiple classes.

        Let me draw your causation for you. Because we have an extra class of students, we need more teachers. Because we do a better job of teaching kids of all abilities, not just kicking them out of school, we need more teachers.

  • cherz1967

    MOST firefighters in the United States are volunteers.  Put that in your smoke and pipe it.

  • KrackerX

    Aren’t schools supposed to be state and locally funded?