Oklahoma has the third highest percentage of teachers in the classroom of any state in the nation, putting about 6 percentage points more of its total staff actually into the classroom than the U.S. average. Oklahoma also allocates a higher percentage of its personnel in the classroom than any of our neighboring states, approximately 5 percentage points more than the regional average. The percent of teachers interacting and instructing students is one of the best measures of school efficiency. As the two tables below indicate, Oklahoma fares very well in this measure. A large portion of the remaining 42% of school employees are also directly involved in instruction, such as librarians, guidance counselors, and teachers aides.

Teachers as a Percent of Total Staff -
Ten Highest States
Rhode Island
South Dakota
National Average

Source: "Public School Student, Staff and Graduate Counts by State, School Year 1997-98" National Center for Education Statistics


Source: "Public School Student, Staff and Graduate Counts by State, School Year 1997-98"
National Center for Education Statistics

As with any data, problems with reporting and interpretation may occur. The next section of this report explains how some expenditure and other types of data can also present interpretation problems.
Policy makers should be made aware of the limitations of financial data and supplement it with other information as necessary to get a complete picture

Why Financial Percentages Can Be Misleading:
Recently much attention has been give to the percent of school expenditures going to administration or instruction in Oklahoma's public schools. There are a number of problems with relying on this approach exclusively. Those problems include:

  • Oklahoma's low teacher salaries have a direct impact on the higher administrative percentages in the state. For example, if Oklahoma raised its average teachers salary of $31,149 to the national average of $45,582, administrative costs would be reduced by 12 percent to 3.13%.

  • Lower administrative costs do not automatically lead to more resources in the classroom. For example, Florida, which boasts having the 6th lowest percentage of (1.1%) administrative costs also has one of the lowest percentages (48.6%) of teachers in the classroom. Indiana also has low administrative costs but is also putting a low percentage of its personnel actually into the classroom. These two examples illustrate how low administrative costs are not necessarily good indicators of resources being allocated into the classroom.

  • Certain administrative, transportation, food service, and support expenditures are fixed costs. States with higher fixed costs such as high free and reduced school lunch programs will inevitably have higher administrative/support costs.

  • A one year snapshot of a districts costs could lead to unfair assessments of that district's administrative expenditures. Some districts may face one time legal costs or coding errors which could distort their administrative expenditures to appear higher than in other more typical years.

  • Coding errors or differences in interpretation among districts and states may distort how resources are actually allocated Questionnaires/surveys are developed by groups, such as NCES, then distributed to literally thousands of school districts across the nation, which are charged with categorizing their personnel. Despite the fact that survey instructions attempt to guide school districts to uniformly categorize costs and employment figures, some inevitable differences in interpretation as well as coding errors occur. For example, in some districts, especially small ones, it is not uncommon for a principal or a superintendent to also drive a school bus, provide grounds maintenance, and other duties that may fall into different personnel categories, in addition to their administrative responsibilities. Such differences can have the results of districts rearranging their cost data in a manner which appears to have reduced or increased their administrative spending or instructional spending.

The information for this report was obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics "Public School Staff and Graduate Counts by State, School Year 1997-98" released in April, 1999. This data is obtained from surveys completed by the State Departments' of Education

Teachers as a Percentage of Total Staff (1998)

1 Hawaii 62.2%
2 Rhode Island 61.6%
3 Oklahoma 58.0%
4 Nevada 57.7%
5 Idaho 57.2%
6 Missouri 56.5%
7 Maryland 55.3%
8 Massachusetts 55.3%
9 South Dakota 55.1%
10 Wisconsin 55.1%
11 Delaware 54.6%
12 Ohio 54.5%
13 California 54.4%
14 West Virginia 54.4%
15 North Dakota 54.3%
16 Georgia 53.9%
17 Montana 53.9%
18 New Jersey 53.8%
19 South Carolina 53.6%
20 Alabama


21 Minnesota 53.4%
22 Utah 53.3%
23 Nebraska 53.2%
24 Washington 53.1%
25 Virginia 53.0%
26 Kansas 52.9%
27 Tennessee 52.9%
28 Arkansas 52.5%
29 Pennsylvania 52.5%
30 Colorado 52.4%
31 New Hampshire 52.2%
32 North Carolina 52.1%
33 Illinois 51.9%
34 Texas 51.6%
35 Maine 51.4%
36 Connecticut 51.2%
37 Alaska 51.0%
38 New York 51.0%
39 Iowa 50.9%
40 Arizona 50.8%
41 Oregon 50.7%
42 Louisiana 49.3%
43 New Mexico 49.2%
44 Wyoming 49.2%
45 Florida 48.6%
46 Vermont 48.3%
47 Mississippi 47.7%
48 Indiana 47.1%
49 Kentucky 45.5%
50 Michigan 44.8%
National Avg. 52.2%

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, "Public School Student, Staff, and Graduate Counts by State, School Year, 1997-98," April 1999