Rochester schools’ staff grew three times faster than enrollment since 2012

Rochester public schools face a $14 million budget shortfall for the forthcoming 2023-2024 school year. That reality has forced school administrators to announce a second straight year of sizable staff reductions, including 76 teaching positions projected to save more than $7.5 million.

A districtwide staffing analysis prepared for the school board revealed the source of much of the budget crisis— an explosive 23 percent growth in staff compared to a 7 percent increase in students over the last decade, according to the Post Bulletin.

The School Board discussed the issue Tuesday. The analysis was prompted by the district announcing dozens of staffing reductions to balance the budget.

“As I look at the list of positions today, there are jobs that I don’t think existed that far back,” RPS Chief Administration Officer John Carlson said. “And I think it’s really related to the complexity and the expectations and the demands that are put on our schools and our teachers these days to solve a whole variety of problems and issues and to best educate our children.”

The district breakdown shows some startling positions where new employees were hired for jobs outside the classroom, specifically counselors and social workers. The additions also included more than 50 teaching coaches evidently to teach the teachers on staff.

The number of school counselors increased 77%. The number of school social workers increased 199.3%. The number of licensed school nurses increased 148.5%.

The last decade also gave rise to a whole new category of educators in Rochester called “instructional coaches,” which began around 2012. According to documentation from the district, instructional coaches are meant “to provide staff/professional development to other teachers within their buildings.” There are 54 such positions.

The hiring binge included new teaching opportunities in several areas, propelled by the state’s expanded kindergarten classes and other programs.

The number of special education teachers has grown 47.2%, compared with a 50.4% increase in students receiving special education services.

The number of early childhood and family education teachers increased 69.2%.

Kindergarten teaching positions increased by 33.3%, driven by the initiation of all-day kindergarten in 2015.

“There are many nuanced reasons as to why there has been growth,” Carlson said. “Such as early childhood: there’s been new funding provided by different state mechanisms that have allowed us to expand those programs. Same thing with kindergarten.”

The number of career and technical education teachers increased 76.1%.

Yet the number of teachers in one key subject, reading, has declined since 2012. Same with educators who focused on helping students having trouble in some subjects.

…there also were a number of categories where teaching positions decreased. The number of adult basic education teachers decreased 50.8%. Reading teacher positions decreased 52.2%. The number of interventionist teaching positions decreased 37.9%. The number of teachers on special assignment decreased 76.1%.

The increase in staff levels at Rochester schools has paralleled a notable drop in test scores on state proficiency standards. In the last five years, Rochester students have slipped from 57 percent to 49.5 percent in reading, along with a bigger decline in math scores from 53 to 40 percent proficiency. It just doesn’t add up.