Public Schools: 2012 Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data

According to the Census of Governments, public elementary and secondary school employment and payroll per employee in the portion of New York State outside New York City, which was already pretty high compared with the national average in 1992, got much higher over the 20 years to follow. In New York City instructional (ie. teachers) employment is somewhat above the U.S. average with non-instructional payroll far below, as has been the case for 20 years. In 2012 New York City’s instructional payroll per employee was above the U.S. average by about the amount one might have expected, given the higher average was for typical workers in the Downstate private sector. However New York City’s instructional payroll per employee had been much lower compared with the U.S. average, considering the local cost of living and typical private sector pay level, in the past. In the rest of New York State average pay was high and is getting higher. These and other trends are shown in a series of charts below.

As noted a couple of posts ago, I have downloaded and arranged the local government employment and payroll data from the Census of Governments for 1992, 2002, and 2012, for all the counties in New York State and New Jersey, the U.S. average, and some other states and counties chosen for comparison. State government data for New York, New Jersey, the U.S. and a few other states is also included. This post includes four spreadsheets.

Additional posts will cover different government functions with text and charts. Unfortunately as a result of relative health issues that are taking up my non-work time, these may roll out slowly.

Chart 1

The first chart shows 2012 “full time equivalent” (full timers plus part timers compressed to a smaller number of full timers based on hours worked) public elementary and secondary school employment per 100,000 residents, in the “instructional” and “non-instructional” categories, for the U.S., different parts of New York State, New Jersey, Fairfield County and some of the most populous and densely populated counties elsewhere. The data show that both instructional and non-instructional employment were very high compared with the U.S. average in New York’s Downstate Suburbs (Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam), the Upstate Urban Counties (Albany, Broome, Dutchess, Erie, Monroe, Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady), the Rest of New York State and New Jersey. Public school employment by this measure was also above the U.S. average in Dallas County and Harris County (Houston) in Texas.

Public employment per 100,000 residents is the measure I use for most public services, but for public elementary and secondary schools the relevant population is the school-aged (those age 5 to 17).

Chart 2

In 2012, the school-aged comprised 17.1% of the population of the United States but just 14.9% of the population of New York City. The city’s population drops significantly for those age 5 to 9 compared with those age 0 to 4, as some parents choose to move to places where a better education is on offer, a local income tax is not collected, and housing units with three or more bedrooms are a higher share of the total housing stock. Some may move to the Downstate Suburbs, where those aged 5 to 17 were 17.6% of the population in 2012, New Jersey at 16.9%, or Fairfield County at 18.2%. The share of the population age 5 to 17 is far below average in aging, slow population growth Upstate New York It is also below the U.S. average in many of the largest and most densely populated counties elsewhere in the U.S., though in Dallas and Harris Counties in fast-growth Texas children are a relatively large share of the population.

chart 3

Measured per 1,000 residents age 5 to 17, March 2012 public elementary school instructional employment was 93 in New York City, above the U.S. average of 87. This ratio was 112 for New Jersey, 102 for Fairfield County, 104 for the Downstate Suburbs, 108 for the Upstate Urban Counties, and a sky-high 125 in the Rest of New York State. Adjusting for the number of children, instructional employment is below the U.S. average in Dallas and Harris County in Texas, and far below in many of the other large and densely populated U.S. counties.

As for non-instructional public school employment, in 2012 the 24 full time equivalent local government workers per 1,000 residents age 5 to 17 in NYC was far below U.S. average of 38. Some of this is due to the contracting out of non-instructional work to private sector companies, but data on public school expenditures shows the city’s per-student spending on non-instructional (including both the employees and the contracts) is relatively low as well. The 2011 elementary and secondary education finance data was reviewed in the post below, with data for 2012 likely to be available in late May or early June.

New Jersey was right at the national average for non-instructional elementary and second school employment per 1,000 residents aged 5 to 17, and Fairfield County was below average, but the Downstate Suburbs (43) Upstate Urban Counties (50) and Rest of New York State had relatively high non-instructional employment.

Chart 4

New York City’s private elementary and secondary school employment was well above the U.S. average, compared with the population age 5 to 17, in 2012. So NYC’s above average number of public instructional workers was providing education to a below-average share of those aged 5 to 17. The same may be said of the Upstate Urban Counties and the Rest of New York State. With sky-high public school employment, Upstate New York also has above average private school employment.

Chart 5

Looking at some Northeastern suburbs known for good schools, public school employment in the Downstate Suburbs was high relative not only to Fairfield County, Connecticut and the New Jersey average, but also compared with Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Middlesex County, Massachusetts and Montgomery County, Maryland. On the other side of DC, Fairfax County, Virginia had relatively high public school employment. Bear that in mind when the discussion moves on to payroll. In the areas of North Carolina may people from the New York area have been moving to, public school employment was lower still – below the U.S. average per 1,000 residents age 5 to 17 – in 2012.

Chart 6

When measured per 100,000 residents, elementary and secondary school instructional employment increased quite a bit from 1992 to 2002 and fell slightly from 2002 to 2012 in the U.S. as a whole, New York City, the Upstate Urban Counties, and the Rest of New York State. It carried on rising in the Downstate Suburbs, New Jersey and Fairfield County.

Chart 7

One reason for the upturn in public school instructional employment from 1992 to 2002 and downturn from 2002 to 2012, as seen in New York City, the U.S., and Upstate New York, was trends in enrollment. School enrollments increased across the nation as the children of the relatively large “baby boom” generation, the “baby boom echo” generation, flooded the schools in the 1990s and early 2000s. The share of the population aged 5 to 17 increased significantly from 1992 to 2002 in New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, the Upstate Urban Counties and New Jersey. The Rest of New York State saw the share of its population age 5 to 17 fall from 1992 to 2002 due to the stagnant population in the state’s rural areas. All these areas saw the share of their populations in the 5 to 17 age group fall from 2002 to 2012, as the “baby boom echo” generation exited the schools.

Chart 8

When measured per 1,000 residents age 5 to 17, public school instructional employment increased significantly both from 1992 to 2002 and 2002 to 2012 in New York City and the U.S. The increases have been even greater in the rest of New York State and New Jersey, where public school instructional employment had been high to begin with. For other parts of New York State, the STAR program – which gave school districts more state aid the more they spent – is one part of the explanation. It set off a local government boom in the portion of the state outside New York City after being proposed by then Governor Pataki in the mid-1990s. New York City’s share of state school aid was slashed at the same time. In New Jersey, court decisions forced more school funding for underfunded urban districts, but the rest of the state – where funding and staffing were already adequate – responded by increasing its staffing as well.

One all that staff had been hired, school districts and teachers’ unions have sought to maintain the higher staffing even as enrollments fell. Higher services may be part of the explanation for high staffing relative to population, as more children benefitted from full-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten. Having only provided education in the past, public schools now also provide a child care function in families were all adults work away from the home. This may be considered a “productivity gain” for the education sector in recent decades.

Chart 9

During the 1992 to 2002 period elementary and secondary school non-instructional employment jumped relative to the population age 5 to 17 in the U.S. as a whole, in Upstate New York, and in New Jersey. It increased slightly, from an already high level, in the Downstate Suburbs, but fell significantly in New York City. There was a general leveling off of non-instructional staffing from 2002 to 2012, even as instructional employment continued to soar relative to the population age 5 to 17.

Let’s move on to what these elementary and secondary school workers were paid.

As noted in my prior post,

When one thinks about what local government workers are paid, on average, one needs to think relative. One relevant comparison is what the local government workers in one place earn relative to the U.S. average for local government workers in the same functional category. A second is what local government workers earn relative to the private sector workers who pay taxes to support them. As it happens, Downstate New York, New Jersey, and Fairfield County, Connecticut all have a relatively high private sector payroll per worker, compared with the U.S average. A relatively high cost of living goes along with that, and average public sector pay has to be higher as well to attract employees of equal ability and motivation. However, in a (very) few parts of the U.S. the pay level of the highest paid sector is so high as to significantly skew total private sector payroll per employee, enough to make the total an irrelevant comparison with most workers. Two of those places are Downstate New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut, with their overpaid financial sectors. These comparisons are made for “instructional” public school employees in the next chart.

Chart 10

As the chart shows, in New York City the average payroll per full time equivalent “instructional” elementary and secondary school employee (ie. teachers) in March 2012 was 27.8% higher than the U.S. average. But even with the overpaid finance sector excluded, the average private sector worker in Downstate New York earned 28.1% more than the U.S. average in 2012, a general pay level that is reflected in the metro area cost of living and ability to pay taxes. While about what you would expect relative to the U.S. average, NYC’s instructional payroll per worker was low compared with the Downstate Suburbs at 59.9% above average, New Jersey at 35.4% above average, and Fairfield County at 37.3% above average. Metro New York is characterized by sky-high teacher pay, compared with the U.S. average, even with the higher typical private sector pay level and local cost of living taken into account.

The same may be said of Upstate New York. In the Upstate Urban Counties payroll per instructional employee was 20.5% above the U.S. average in March 2012, even though private sector pay averaged 12.8% below the U.S. average in 2012. And in the rest of New York State, payroll per instructional employee was 6.6% above the U.S. average in March 2012, even though private sector pay averaged 10.6% below the U.S. average in 2012.

If New York City’s ratio of instructional employment to the school-aged population is so far below the rest of New York State, and its instructional payroll per employee is so far below the rest of metro area, as this data from the Census Bureau’s governments division shows, how come its overall instructional wages and benefits spending per student is so high, as shown by the education finance data from the Bureau? The finance data includes the retired. New York City, in education and elsewhere, is characterized by extremely high spending on those who are NOT working – the early retired – and low starting pay for those on the job. This is a victory for the unions, which grab high labor costs overall while claiming that public workers owe less to the general public because they are “underpaid” based on cash pay (and in particular starting pay) alone.

How can New York State afford both such high instructional staffing relative to the population and high instructional pay relative to the private sector? Part of the answer is the nation’s highest tax burden, if taxes on mining, oil and gas extraction in small population states are excluded. And part of the answer is that New York is dependent on Wall Street ripping off the rest of the world to offset part of the higher costs associated with the powerful unions also taking more than most workers get. In 2012 total pay per private sector employee in Downstate New York with Wall Street included was 52.0% above the U.S. average. The resulting state and local taxes are spent in Upstate New York as well as Downstate New York. But whenever tax revenues from finance and those who work there fall, New York City and State have a budget crisis, and run up their high debts (on and off the books) even higher. In fact, it takes stock market bubbles and federal government bailouts to balance their budgets.

The next chart shows the same average pay data for some large and densely populated counties across the country. San Francisco and Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) in California are the only places I have identified where the highest paid sector is large and overpaid enough to skew total private sector pay per employee: this figure is also shown without those sectors in those areas.

Chart 11

The data show that instructional (teacher) payroll per employee is above the U.S. average by less than private sector payroll per employee in King County (Seattle), Montgomery County Pennsylvania, Suffolk County (Boston), and San Francisco and Santa Clara counties in California (even with the overpaid sectors excluded).

Instructional pay was relatively low in Fairfax County, Virginia where instructional employment was high as shown earlier, and relatively high in Montgomery County, Maryland, where instructional employment was relatively low. This shows a different philosophy about how to get bang for the buck in two affluent suburban counties on two sides of DC — more teachers or higher paid teachers. This compares with the high staffing AND average pay for instructional workers in the portion of New York State outside New York City (and the high retirement costs for NYC).

In the larger Texas counties, I have often been surprised by how high average private sector pay and per capita income are. But public employees do less well there, relative to the U.S. average. This is borne out by the data for instructional public school employees, whose pay is below the U.S. average in Dallas and Harris (Houston) counties. Somehow Texas doesn’t pay a political or social attitude price for relatively underpaid teachers. You don’t see the head of the national teacher’s union talking about how great a deal teachers have in New York compared with Texas (and North Carolina), and claiming that education is better in New York as a result. You certainly don’t hear that from New York’s union affiliates.

Instructional pay per employee was also higher than the U.S. average by more than private sector pay per employee in Los Angeles County and in Cook County (Chicago) in 2012, where the teachers went on strike that year. There never seems to be any correlation between the deal that a group is getting and their attitude for the rest of us. Those with the best deals just seem to have an outsize sense of entitlement, fed by their power. In the executive suite and in government.

For example, let’s look at instructional pay per employee in 1992, 2002 and 2012, measured as a percentage above the U.S. average.

Chart 12

Given the overall private sector pay level and the resulting cost of living, instructional pay per employee was relatively low in New York City in 2002. At time when the average pay per private sector worker was 29.7% above the U.S. average even with the overpaid finance sector excluded, the average NYC teacher earned just 7.5% more than the U.S. average. This was before the 20.0% raise for teachers pushed through by Mayor Bloomberg, who the UFT nonetheless chose to paint as the worse Mayor in history (when belatedly, and after a hugely expensive pension increase, he started asking for better schools in return). NYC teachers were even more disadvantaged in 1997, according to data compilations I had done earlier, and the city’s schools were understaffed at the time (when my oldest child was 5 and we were deciding where they kids should go to school).

So were NYC’s teachers underpaid in the 1990s and early 2000s? Perhaps in many cases individually, but not collectively. Collectively the city’s children were taught (or not taught) by those who were in experienced, unmotivated, uncertified, and unable to get jobs in the rest of the metro area. The city’s schools were so bad that the New York State Court of Appeals held that they violated the state constitution. The city didn’t get what it didn’t pay for (or at least didn’t pay for in education specifically, as taxes were still high here back then).

And what has happened since? NYC property taxes were increased 18.0%, other taxes were increased as well, and NYC teachers have received higher pay and much, much higher retirement funding. And yet in the recent election every candidate for Mayor except one said the city’s schools were no better than they had been back when they were unconstitutional. The head of the NYC teacher’s union is publicly demanding that city teachers be required to do less while getting more. While also demanding that the Mayor not negotiate in the press. In the Downstate Suburbs average instructional pay per employee has continued to rise from already high levels, relatively speaking. The union for teachers in the rest of the state recently threw out its leader and replaced him with a more “militant” union official for the Downstate Suburbs, who has also demanded that teachers should be able to provide less for more and get more $respect$.

In Upstate New York average instructional pay per employee has been falling relative to the U.S. average, though not as fast as average pay in the private sector. As noted above, their pay continues to rise relative to their neighbors. Average instructional pay also continues to rise, relative to the U.S. average, in New Jersey. Then again the U.S. average for those working is under pressure throughout the nation due to the rising cost of those retired.

How about non-instructional pay per worker?

Chart 13

It jumped relative to the U.S. average from 1992 to 2002 just about everywhere in New York State. Since then trends are mixed, with a decrease for New York City, a leveling off in the Downstate Suburbs and the Rest of New York State, and gains in the Upstate Urban Counties.

I was going to include public higher education in this post, but it is too long already. If, however, one wants an explanation of the relatively high tax burden in the portion of New York State outside New York City, for the most part they have already seen it. Relatively high staffing relative to population and high pay relative to most private sector workers in the public schools. Is it worth it? That’s a value judgment. Can the rest of the state afford it? Only if New York City is provided with an unfairly low share of state school aid, as in the 1990s, or a Wall Street bubble is temporarily inflating tax revenues. And now that the pension increases of the past need to be paid for, perhaps not even then.

Remember, if you don’t want to wait for the next post, download the spreadsheets, print out the tables, and make up your own mind. It is to make those spreadsheets available that I did all that work to begin with, not to express my own opinion.