In the wake of the Great Recession, the number of people working in public education fell relative to the overall population in much of the country, and inflation-adjusted teacher pay fell in many parts of it. There was only a partial reversal from March 2014 to March 2016, and it was mostly in places where school staffing and pay were already relatively high.
Several factors contributed to the trend. First, in some states were the tax burden was already low relative to the personal income of state residents, it was reduced further by anti-tax ideologues. The result was reductions in public services for the non-elderly across the board, including, in the end, elementary and secondary education. Second, with the large Baby Boom Echo (aka millennial) generation exiting school, and smaller generations entering school, the actual need for school workers fell. But in some places with high and rising taxes the demand for school jobs increased, as other high-compensation alternatives for politically influential college graduates diminished. Third, the cost of retired public employees soared, as a result of past taxpayer underfunding in low-tax right-wing states. And as a result of retroactive pension increases scored by powerful public employee unions in (if by “right-wing” people mean having public policy favor the otherwise advantaged at the expense of those with less power) the other type of right-wing, high-tax states, those generally self-described a “progressive.” A review of the data follows.