Media Myth Debunked: Class Sizes Have Dropped 40 Percent Since 1960

A regular media meme, especially since Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments regarding public sector employees last week, has been that there just aren't enough school teachers in America.

Such statements ignore that according to the Census Bureau, since 1960, the average class size in our public schools has declined by 40 percent as the number of teachers rose almost four times faster than the student population.

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.

That's not something the Left and their media minions care to discuss as political leaders try to deal with budget deficits by cutting payrolls.

Taking this exercise a tad further, this also means that in the past 50 years, the number of public school teachers has risen 3.6 times faster than the number of students.

I quite doubt you'd find anyone to claim the quality of education has risen as the nation went on a teacher hiring binge or even admit that such a binge has occurred.

Yet the solution we constantly hear for declining test scores and graduation rates is ever more teachers.

On a related note, although the Census Bureau has only tracked teachers' salaries since 1985, this also tells an interesting tale.

In 1985, the average public school primary and secondary school teacher earned $23,587 a year, or $49,309 adjusted for inflation. In 2011, he or she earned $54,220, a ten percent increase.

That doesn't seem like much, but as liberals constant complain that incomes for regular folks in America have been stagnant, public school teachers have actually done relatively well.

Consider too that in 2010, the median income across the entire population was $49,445.

Yes, the average public school teacher makes more than half the citizens he or she serves.

So while the number of public school teachers has declined in the past few years as a result of local government budget problems - a fact the President, his Party, and the media that aid and abet them are trying to make political hay on - when looked upon historically, this is not the crisis they're claiming it is.

In fact, and although I'm by no means advocating it, we could lose another 1 million teachers before we got back to the classroom size that gave most of us and education we were proud of.

Remember that the next time some liberal media member says it's immoral to consider education cuts when trying to balance a budget.


Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.