Fayette seen as exception to trend of school staffing hikes

Georgia Public Policy Senior Fellow Benjamin Scafidi in a Feb. 24 commentary on the increases in public school staffing despite the budget cuts coming from the recession does not seem to hold true in Fayette County.

“Cuts to family budgets have been significant since the Great Recession began in late 2007. Likewise, cuts to public school budgets in Georgia and nationally have been significant as well,” Scafidi said. “... in 2012 Georgia public school students had smaller pupil-teacher ratios and more school administrators to attend to their needs than students in 2001, even factoring in the effects of the Great Recession.”

Scafidi said Georgia public schools between 2001 and 2011 have been increasing their employment of teachers at a higher rate than their increase in students.

“And Georgia public schools have been increasing their employment of school and central office administrators at a much higher rate than their increase in both teachers and students,” said Scafidi.

Given the state numbers, The Citizen wanted to see the staffing numbers in Fayette County. The 2008-2014 timeframe was selected since it was during those years that Fayette went from boom to bust in terms of student enrollment.

Data supplied by the school system showed total staffing in 2008 was 3,151 employees, with 1,888 certified positions such as teachers and 1,263 classified positions.

By 2014, the number of total staff included 2,539 employees, with 1,535 of those as certified staff and 1,004 classified.

Prior to 2008 Fayette for decades had swelled in population and, consequently, in school enrollment.

It was in 2008 that Fayette hit an all-time high in enrollment with 22,174 students. The school system since that time has continued to decline in enrollment, with 2014 enrollment now standing at 20,148 students. That figure represents a total student count not seen in Fayette County in more than a dozen years.

In terms of budgets, Fayette reached a high of approximately $197 million in 2008. The current general fund budget is $163 million.