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Teacher Turnover: Costs

Education in the United States is decentralized. Yet, public schooling is a multi-billion dollar industry with President Bush requesting allocation of 54.4 billion dollars in federal funds for education in 2007 (United States Department of Education [ED], 2006a). The proposed federal funding represents only a portion of the total education expenditures, in which the total taxpayer investment in the 2004-05 school year reached 536 billion dollars (ED, 2006b).

Several researchers described teacher migration and attrition using economic constructs (e.g., Lortie, 2002). Attrition cost studies used an economic construct (e.g., Alliance for Excellent Education, 2004; Benner, 2000; Cavanagh, 2005; Schockley et al., 2006) as well as competing risks studies based on an economic theme (e.g., Dolton & van der Klaauw, 1999).

Monitoring teacher turnover costs is a starting point for educational leaders to discover the health of the organization and keep costs in line with community expectations. Benner (2000) described five cost models for teacher turnover. Separation, hiring, and training costs are common elements of all the models. Conservative costs are 25% of the teacher’s salary. In contrast, pragmatic costs are 150% of the teacher’s salary. Therefore, the range of costs for teacher turnover in Texas is between $480 million and $1.59 billion. Alliance for Excellent Education (2005) concluded U.S. public schools spend roughly $4.8 billion dollars. A pilot study conducted by Barnes, Crowe, and Schaefer (2007) concluded that teacher turnover costs taxpayers $7.3 billion dollars yearly. Yet, school district budgets do not include a single line item for teacher turnover costs (Schockley, Guglielmino, & Watlington, 2006).

To help administrators, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (2007) published a cost calculator. Barnes, Crowe, and Schaefer (2007) state costs for “recruiting, hiring, and training a replacement teacher” (p. 4) is as high as $17,000 per teacher, leading to billions of dollars spent each year replacing teachers who left the classroom. The cost calculator includes estimates for these factors and helps administrators calculate costs for their school district and schools. Parents and members of the community are also able to estimate a school’s expenses on teacher turnover.