Census Bureau Public School Finance Data: FY 1996 vs. FY 2016 for New York City, Other School Districts in NY State, and Other Areas

The Census Bureau slipped its data on public school finance out in late May.


There was no press release or PDF report, but if you click on 2016 tables at the top and then “Summary Tables,” you can find all the spreadsheets the Bureau previously released in PDF format.   Including, crucially, Table 12 (tabs on the bottom), which ranks states according to their school revenues and expenditures per $1,000 of state residents’ personal income (which adjusts for the state average cost of living and average age and the ability of state taxpayers to pay).  And Table 18, which provides per pupil revenues and expenditures for the 100 largest school districts, including the most expensive by a mile, New York City.  As in the past, I’ve downloaded and compiled more detailed data for every school district in New York State and New Jersey, the U.S. average, the averages for selected other states, and selected school districts elsewhere.  And tabulated revenues and expenditures per student by category for FY 2016 and FY 1996 — with an adjustment for the higher average wage in the high-cost of living Northeast Corridor.

I’ve been holding onto the data for a month, re-downloading and checking it against other sources, because New York City’s expenditures and staffing levels had become so extreme that I can hardly believe it.   Especially since it would be much higher today, in FY 2019.  And because Mayor Bill DeBlasio, candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon, and a lawsuit from a group backed by the United Federation of Teachers claim that New York City school funding is inadequate, with the schools “cheated out of $billions.” How high was it?  Take a look.

A repeated discussion of where the data comes from and how it was compiled will follow a brief discussion of what it shows.

A spreadsheet with FY 2016 data for New York City, the averages for the Downstate Suburbs, the Upstate Urban Counties, Upstate rural counties, and every school district in New York and New Jersey, with (where appropriate) and without and adjustment for the cost of living for comparison with the U.S. average, and selected other states, is here.

Census FY 2016 School Finance NY-NJ

The data shows that New York City spent $27,531 per student on elementary and secondary education in FY 2016, more than, among other places, Darien ($21,381), Westport ($23,643), and Greenwich ($25,265), Connecticut.  This includes debt service and capital expenditures.  The Bureau’s “Budget Summary” data shows $24,000 in per student spending on operating expenditures alone for NYC.

Expenditures on instructional (ie. teachers) wages and benefits alone had soared to $16,608 per student, which is up more than 10.0% just from the prior year.  It is the equivalent of  $332,150 per 20 students and $199,290 per 12 students.   In theory, at the amount New York City was spending three years ago, New York City could have had an average class size of 12 with the average teacher receiving far more in wages and benefits that the vast majority of New Yorkers.  This at a time when the pay and benefits of the average serf who is taxed to fund all this has been falling behind inflation, and even the ridiculous per worker compensation of Wall Street has plunged from the even more ridiculous heights for eight and eighteen years ago.

Note that’s the average.  If some teachers are getting less than $200,000 per 12 students, others are getting more.

Also including other “pedagogical” employees such as principals, superintendents, and other administrators, the number of students per full time equivalent instructional worker has plunged to just 8.1 in New York City.   Apparently due to a huge increase in the number of UFT union-represented part time “paraprofessionals” that I don’t recall ever being discussed in the media, even though I check on a news site specifically on the New York City public schools every day or two. Whatever happened was done very quietly, and with no public debate.

Full time equivalent employment as soared to over 121,000, even as school enrollment has fallen.   The overstaffing in exchange for large class sizes hasn’t yet reached the level of the NYPD, which threatened to stop protecting New Yorkers because police officer staffing was “only” 2.8 times the U.S. average relative to population (2.9 times now).  Or the sky-high level of non-instructional staffing in the rest of the state, where everyone with connections seems to get put on the school payroll.   But it is now close.

Add in the soaring cost of retroactively enriched and thus underfunded pensions, and the additional out of classroom assignments agreed to by Mayor DeBlasio, and one sees why total spending on teachers is so high even as there are a host of services New York City’s children can’t have.  And why they demand even more.

The lawsuits claiming inadequate school spending in New York City date back to the mid-1990s, when an unfair state school funding formula kept school spending here far lower than in other parts of the state – and expenditures barely higher and revenues lower than the U.S. average once the cost of living was adjusted for.   One can see how much was spent in FY 1996, adjusted into $2016 using the consumer price index (see how each cell is multiplied by the 1.5 in cell D4) in this spreadsheet.

Census 1996 School Finance NY All Unit

At the time average per student public school spending in the Downstate New York Suburbs, adjusted downward for the higher cost of living here, was 36.3% above the U.S. average, average spending in the Upstate Urban Counties was 35.3% above average, and spending in Upstate Rural Counties was 33.9% above the U.S. average.   Well above the average for New Jersey, which was 18.7% above the U.S. average, after downward adjustment for the cost of living.  That was more than enough.

But public school spending per student has soared even higher in the rest of New York State from an already high level, and public school spending per student in New York City has soared even more – it has doubled after adjustment for inflation.   You can see this in this spreadsheet, one that compares FY 2016 with FY 1996.

Summary FY 1996-2016 Census Public School Finance Per Student

Instead of gratitude for this extreme level of expenditures, what New Yorkers have received is entitlement and demand for even more, in exchange for less.  Lower expectations for teachers.  Lower standards for students.  Fewer days, years and hours spent in the classroom.  Etc.  I don’t have much to add to what I said last year about why and how school spending has become sky high…


And the consequences of one retroactive pension increase after another in causing this, as also discussed last year.


Except to say there was a huge increase in per student spending from FY 2015 to FY 2016.  In exchange for nothing.   And another huge increase from FY 2016 to FY 2019.

While more and more money went to the schools, Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio have sparred over refusing to overturn the de-funding the MTA capital plan 25 years ago, the resulting soaring debts, and the collapse of the transit system, each refusing to take responsibility.   Where did all the money go?

A lot of it went to transit workers and contractors becoming richer and richer relative to the serfs who ride the trains.  And a lot of went to members of the United Federation of Teachers become richer and richer relative to the serfs who ride the trains.  Even as retired teachers and other public employees are exempted from New York State and New York City income taxes, and active public employees receive placards for guaranteed on-street public parking – so they don’t have to ride the trains like the serfs.

Remember, this is the level of school spending at which a group backed by the UFT claims the New York City schools are so bad they violate the state constitution, in a lawsuit that was allowed to go forward.  Bad schools, according to the lawsuit, is what we deserve, because we aren’t giving them enough money.   Actually, this is considerably less that the level of school spending that will take place next year, in exchange for schools that are so bad they violate the state constitution.  Because after all the money is diverted of the top, after one political deal after another, not enough is left for education.

Those receiving all this money feel free to blast Governor Cuomo at every turn, and accuse Mayor Bill DeBlasio of being a “sexist,” knowing they simply would not dare to respond.  By providing every taxpayer in the state with a postcard showing the data in the spreadsheets above, for their school district compared with the U.S. average, for example.   Which only feeds the contempt and entitlement.

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. Download it. I’ll perhaps write a post about it later. But 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.  That you STILL hear, because the New York State United Teachers and United Federation of Teachers have become the most powerful and selfish self-interest groups at all at the state and local government level in New York, and the data linked above is under Omerta.

You can see the charts I will use in another post on this subject in this spreadsheet, comparing FY 1996 with FY 2016.

Census Public School Finance Charts 2016

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 2016, 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 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.  Unadjusted data is also provided, without the asterisk.

1 thought on “Census Bureau Public School Finance Data: FY 1996 vs. FY 2016 for New York City, Other School Districts in NY State, and Other Areas

  1. Pingback: New York School Spending: Entitlement Feeds More Entitlement And It’s Never Enough | Saying the Unsaid in New York

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