The Obama administration tried to turn the doom-and-gloom up a notch over the weekend, releasing reports on how many employees each state could lose if sequestration isn't stopped. Teachers were prominently featured, of course, because nothing scares people like the prospect of their kids not getting educated.
"Could" is a crucial word here, because it is entirely possible that savings could be found that would negate the need to dismiss people. For instance, unnecessary purchases could be cancelled, or all employees could take small pay cuts. But suppose worst-case firings did come. How horrific would the education damage be?
It turns out, once you look at the overall staffing picture, not very. Using a compilation of the state reports put together by the Washington Post, as well as Digest of Education Statistics staffing data, we assembled the following table calculating how big a percentage of public school employees in each state would disappear in the worst-case scenario. Unlike the administration, we included the numerator and the denominator.
|Total at Risk Staff||Total Staff Employed in Public Elementary and Secondary School Systems (Fall 2010)||Percent Jobs at Risk|
|District of Columbia||0||11,381||0.00%|
We are clearly not talking about big cuts here, at least in percentage terms. The biggest possible hit would be felt in Nevada, which would see a one-half-of-one-percent staffing drop. Everyone else would see between no cut (Washington, DC) and a 0.41% trimming (South Carolina). In other words, there would be mere employment shaving, not devastating, mass-firing events. And when you put this into further context by pointing that there have been decades of huge employment growth, it is clear: These reports aren't intended to inform the public. They are intended to scare it.