Census of Governments Public School Finance Data: FY 2012, 2002, and 1992

The U.S. Census Bureau released its public education finance data for FY 2012 last Thursday, along with this report which includes data by state and for the 100 largest school districts.


I recommend paying attention to Table 11, per pupil revenues and expenditures by category, and Table 12, spending per $1,000 of state residents’ personal income by category, a figure that takes into account the relative cost of living and ability to pay in different states. Table 18 has per pupil amounts for the 100 largest school districts, albeit without such an adjustment. As usual I have downloaded and compiled more detailed data from the Bureau, including more data categories and data for every individual school district in New York, also aggregated into different regions of the state, and every school district in New Jersey. It took 10 hours to do this compilation, mostly because I repeated it for FY 2012, FY 2002, and FY 1992, three roughly economically comparable years that also approximately match the beginning and end of the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations in New York City.

The data shows that in FY 2012 New York City spent $22,884 per student, somewhat lower than the average of $23,914 for the Downstate Suburbs but more than the $18,827 for New Jersey, the $18,815 for the Upstate Urban Counties, the $19,354 for the Rest of New York State, the $18,242 in Connecticut, and the $16,076 in Massachusetts. The U.S. average was just $12,295 per student. As usual I have adjusted some of these figures for the higher average private sector wage and cost of living in the Northeast.  This reduces the NYC figure to $17,865 per child, still 45.3% higher than the U.S. average but below the average for Upstate New York. Moreover, on an unadjusted basis the city spent $13,627 per student on instructional (mostly teachers) wages and benefits in FY 2012. That is $272,540 for every 20 students and $163,500 for every 12 students – during a time when most New Yorkers were under stress from a weak economy and yet the NYC teacher’s union claimed teachers were underpaid and stoked their resentment and de-motivation. The spreadsheets may be found below .

As is my custom, I’m going to simply provide the data in spreadsheets in this post, for everyone to see and make up their own minds. I’ll analyze the data, make charts and write a post or two about it later. What I really want is for people to download these spreadsheets and use them as reference. The facts fly in the face of the propaganda you hear in the news. It turns out that school spending is extremely high in the very places where powerful unions and never satisfied advocates are demanding even more money. In other places, the places where spending was relatively low to begin with, there are continued cries for lower taxes and much less agitation for higher school spending in the media. It makes no sense, except from the point of view of powerful interest groups getting their way.

A few notes on my compilation of the data. Unlike the data in the Census Bureau’s report, which mostly focuses on “current expenditures,” I also include capital expenditures and interest payments. Private school payments, and payments to private charter school operators, are also excluded from per student spending because their students are not included in the Census Bureau’s fall student count. According to the Census Bureau, charter schools chartered by state and local governments are supposed to be included in the general data, with their revenues and expenditures reported by category (teacher wages, food services, etc.) rather than in the aggregate. Also excluded from the per-student figures are non-elementary and secondary school expenditures: adult education for example.

Within New York State, as I define them the “Downstate Suburbs” are Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties. The “Upstate Urban” counties are Albany, Broome (Binghamton), Duchess, Erie (Buffalo), Monroe (Rochester), Niagara, Oneida Utica), Onondaga (Syracuse), Orange, Rensselaer (Troy), Saratoga and Schenectady. The “Rest of New York State” is mostly rural and small town, but includes small cities such as Elmira, Jamestown, Cortland, Oneonta, Amsterdam, etc.

The cost of living adjustments are based on the average private sector wage, excluding the overpaid finance and insurance sector in places where it skews the numbers: Downstate New York and Connecticut. In 2012, according to Employment and Wages data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the payroll per private sector worker in Downstate New York (finance excluded) was 28.1% above the U.S. average. Since 1/1.281 is 0.781, adjusted figures for New York City and the Downstate Suburbs are multiplied by 0.781 to make them comparable with the U.S. average. In the “All Unit Output” spreadsheets school districts and areas that have had their per student spending adjusted downward to account for a relatively high cost of living are identified with a asterisk: all the figures for individual school districts in Downstate New York and New Jersey are so adjusted, along with the statewide totals for New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The first spreadsheet has FY 2012 data for every school district in New York State and New Jersey, different regions of New York State, and the U.S., Connecticut, and Massachusetts totals. Warning:  it’s a big file.

Census Education Finance FY 12 All Unit Output

This is an identical spreadsheet for FY 2002.

Census Education Finance FY02 All Unit Output

Note that the figures have not been adjusted for inflation into $2012. To make such an adjustment based on the consumer price index the figures would have to be multiplied by 1.2762.

Here is an identical spreadsheet for 1992, again in the dollars of the time rather than adjusted for inflation. I would discount the 1992 numbers for non-instructional other than wages and salaries and General Administration for New Jersey, as a great deal of money is placed in “unspecified support” and doesn’t’ show up where it should. The Bureau’s printed report for 1992 is different, implying that adjustments were made.

Census Education Finance FY92 All Unit Output

The next spreadsheet is set to print on three pages, though I have no idea what your spreadsheet program will do with it.

Census Public School Finance Per Student FY02-12

It shows the FY 2012 data for New York City and other aggregated areas, along with the percent and dollar change from FY 2002 with an adjustment for inflation. It shows the changes as a result of the Bloomberg Administration in New York City, and the post-Pataki era in New York State. Adjusted for tax revenue increases and decreases due to the business cycle, since FY 2002 and FY 2012 were both economically weak years.

The final spreadsheet shows the FY 2002 data (in 2002 dollars) and the inflation-adjusted change from FY1992 to FY 2002. I’ve blocked out the change from 1992 to 2002 in a couple of categories where I don’ t think its right. To compare the data for individual school districts in the “All Unit Output” file for 1992 with the data for 2002, multiply the 1992 data by 1.282.  In this file, the multiplication is already done.

Census Public School Finance Per Student FY92-02

It is also set up to print. It doesn’t quite show the impact of the Giuliani and Pataki Administrations, because New York City’s school spending and funding shot up in the last couple of years before FY 2002 after having been very low in the interim. I’ll discuss that history when I write about this data in a post or two next week.  But go ahead and look at the tables in the meantime.


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  1. Pingback: New York’s Sky-High Public School Spending | Saying the Unsaid in New York

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