The share of school spending used to pay classroom teachers has fallen sharply over the past decade, as costs have surged for state programs, busing, building operations and other nonteaching expenses, according to a report issued yesterday.
"There's been an exponential growth of the things that support education," said Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which released the report. "And that's drawing more and more money away from teachers in the classroom, which touches the kids."
Boyer added, "The issue now is not just the amount of money spent on education, but to rearrange our priorities on where the money goes."
This shift in resources, which has taken place in Maryland and Virginia as well as every other state in the nation, has gone hand-in-hand with a loss in teachers' authority and prestige, said Boyer, a former U.S. commissioner of education. It is an important factor, he said, in the current "crisis" in the teaching profession, which undergirds the long-term drop in student achievement.
During the past decade, the report said, per pupil spending in American public schools has climbed by 22.5 percent, after accounting for inflation, but the proportion of these funds used for paying classroom teachers has dropped from 49 percent to 41 percent.
Average teacher salaries, about $20,500 in the 1982-83 school year, were 12.2 percent lower, when adjusted for inflation, than they had been a decade earlier, the report said.
In Virginia, the share of education spending used to pay teachers declined from 54.5 percent in the 1972-73 school year to 43 percent in 1982-83. The drop in Maryland was from 48 percent to 39 percent in the same period. In the District of Columbia teachers' salaries accounted for 44 percent of school operating costs this past year, but the report contained no comparable data for the District 10 years earlier.
During the last school year the average teacher salary in the District was $26,048, the report said, higher than that for any state except Alaska, where virtually all salaries and living costs are exceptionally high. The average salary in Maryland, $22,786, ranked 10th in the country, while the average for Virginia, $18,707, ranked 31st.
Compared with 10 years earlier, the average classroom teacher salaries had declined 12.2 percent in Maryland, when adjusted for inflation, and 15.5 percent in Virginia. The percentage change for the District was not available.
The new report, entitled "The Condition of Teaching: A State by State Analysis," was written by Emily Feistritzer, who holds a doctorate in education from Indiana University and is head of Feistritzer Publications, publisher of two education newsletters in Washington.
The 119-page report assembles and analyzes a wide range of education and population data, mostly from government agencies and the National Education Association.
Last March, Feistritzer published a report on teachers nationwide, which said one of the prime reasons for the drop in the academic quality of new teachers has been the surge of "high-caliber young women" into business, law, and other higher-paying fields.
Since last spring there have been four major reports by different groups studying American schools. The most widely publicized was that of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, decrying a "rising tide of mediocrity," which was released in April by the White House.
Speaking yesterday at a press conference in the National Press Club, Boyer said the compilation of data in Feistritzer's new report was needed "to throw light on a heated subject."
Feistritzer said the data show that although some national efforts are required to improve U.S. schools, "across-the-board solutions need to be carefully viewed."
"The discrepancies among the states are tremendous," she added. "All of them haven't done the same thing. Just to say add money across-the-board doesn't make a lot of sense."
For example, the report says:
* Average teacher salaries range from a high to $34,953 in Alaska to a low of $14,285 in Mississippi. Generally, the wealthier states pay higher salaries, but many of the low-salary states have given greater-than-average increases over the past decade.
* Even though total public school enrollment has dropped by 14 percent in 10 years to 39.5 million students, the number of classroom teachers has increased by 1.4 percent, while specialists without regular classes have increased 15 percent.
* The average number of students per teacher declined steeply, from 22 to 18, but the state-by-state pattern was uneven. Utah, one of only seven states with an increase in students, now has the largest number of students per teacher--25. The lowest, 14, is in Vermont and Wyoming, with Virginia having 17 students per teacher; the District 18 and Maryland 19.