New York School Spending: Entitlement Feeds More Entitlement And It’s Never Enough

Over the past 25 years some types of Americans have become richer and richer, at the expense of others who have become poorer and poorer – to the point where average life expectancy is starting to fall.  One might have imagined that at some point those who have been taking more and more would conclude that enough is enough, feel obligated to do more in return, and become concerned about the circumstances of others who are less well off.  But that doesn’t seem to happen.  Not among the richest generations in U.S. history, those born from 1930 to 1957, who continue to be completely focused on increasing their own share of the take.  Not among the richest people, the top executives who sit on each other’s boards and vote each other higher and higher pay.  And who anointed themselves “the makers” and everyone else “the takers” within two years of having been bailed out by the federal government, even as “the takers” saw their standard of living plunge, and then demanded another round of tax cuts that mostly benefit themselves.

And not among New York’s unionized public employees, particularly those working in its public schools, who have become the most politically powerful – and selfish – of all self-interest groups at the state and local level here.  Power and selfishness seem to go together in part because no one dares to offend the powerful, by pointing out how much they have taken relative to everyone else, and the connection between others having less and them taking more. So they can continue to feel aggrieved, entitled, resentful, unobligated – and somehow demand even more without embarrassment.  There seems to be no end to it.  This post uses Census Bureau data to show how far it had gone, as of three years ago.

The post is based on a series of charts that in turn are based on comparative education finance data, collected and tabulated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Where the data comes from, how I tabulated it, and spreadsheets with data of per student revenues and expenditures for every individual school district in New York and New Jersey may be found in my prior post here.

This year’s analysis compares FY 2016, the latest data, with FY 1996, just after the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit alleging the underfunding of New York City schools was allowed to go forward.  That litigation continues, with advocates for higher school spending backed by the teachers’ unions – the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) — demanding that New Yorkers be made even worse off in other ways to spend $billions more on schools. Because we are still cheating them out of $billions.

After 20 years, it is still alleged, New York City’s schools are still so bad they violate the state constitution, not because those who work in them have been unfair to us, but because we have been unfair to them.   Mayor DeBlasio and candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon agree.  So how much have we cheated those who work in the schools, then and now?

Unfortunately, as of the date of this report few have downloaded the spreadsheets in the prior post and looked at the tables, WordPress tells me, as is usually the case.   People prefer to download copies of the charts.  Well, here they are, along with what they show.


In FY 2016, New York City spent $27,531 per student on its public schools, more than the average for the mostly affluent, high-spending Downstate New York Suburbs ($26,531), more than the average for New Jersey ($20,534), more than the average for Connecticut ($21,015), more than the average for Massachusetts ($17,299).  And within Connecticut, more than the average for Darien ($21,381), Westport ($23,643) and Greenwich, home of the hedge fund managers ($25,265).

On “instructional” (ie. teachers) wages and benefits alone, New York City spent $16,608 per student, which is $332,150 per 20 students, and $199,290 per 12 students.   This is the average – some, particularly those with less seniority and in lower pension tiers – get less, but others get more.

Just for comparison, the median New York City resident with a college degree alone earned $58,853 in cash wages, salaries and/or self-employment income in 2016, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The median worker with a graduate degree earned $75,808 – and a teaching degree is the easiest graduate degree to get.  This data, for 2006 (converted into $2016) and 2016 and for New York City and the U.S., is here.

Median Earnings NY-US-2006-2016

The ACS data for all New Yorkers include managers and executives, whereas the figures for New York City instructional wages and benefits per student exclude principals and other school administrators.

As for benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the mean employer retirement cost per private sector worker is 5.5 percent of cash pay in the U.S., compared with 40 percent plus for NYC teachers just for pensions– and it should be 60 percent to get the New York City teacher pension fund out of the whole – and more for retiree health care and other benefits.

New York City’s instructional wages and benefits at $16,608 per student compares with an average of $15,641 for New York’s Downstate Suburbs, $9,002 in New Jersey, $9,505 in Connecticut, and $8,336 in Massachusetts – little more than half the level of New York City.

These are all relatively high-wage, high cost of living areas along the Northeast Corridor.   For comparison with the U.S. average and Upstate New York, I adjust their revenues and expenditures per student downward based on what the average private sector worker earned in each area.   In 2016, the median cash earnings of New York City resident workers was 13.9% more than the U.S. medianfor those with a college diploma, 8.1% more for those with a graduate degree, and 8.6% more overall, according to American Community Survey data.

But I adjust New York City’s expenditures downward even more based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data that show in 2016 the meanpayroll per private sector worker (excluding the finance and insurance sector) in Downstate New York was 28.0% above the U.S. average, pulled up by those at the top.   It has been between that level and 31.2% above the U.S. average since 1990.   So the data for New York City and the Downstate Suburbs is multiplied .0.781. Let’s simply the chart showing adjusted data only, and use adjusted data from now on.


Downward adjustment reduces total FY 2016 New York City expenditure per student to $21,503, which is still 58.1% above the U.S. average of $13,605. And per student spending on instructional wages and benefits alone to $12,971, far more than double the U.S. average of $6,253.   More than double, for the same job – even after a downward adjustment for the higher average pay and cost of living here.

New York City’s adjusted total expenditures of $21,503 per student, however, are similar to the adjusted average of $20,773 for the Downstate Suburbs, and the straight averages of the $21,009 average for the Upstate Urban Counties and $21,912 for the Upstate Rural Counties.  After two decades of soaring spending these broad areas of New York State are about the same, although there is substantial variation among school districts in the rest of the state.

In Upstate New York, the average private sector worker earns far lessthan the U.S. average, but I haven’t adjusted its public school spending figures upwardto account for this the way I adjusted the spending figures downward in Downstate New York.  In part because the cost of living is still high Upstate, mostly because of a high state and local government tax burden.

For instructional wages and benefits alone, adjusted where appropriate, New York City’s $12,971 per student compares with $12,216 for the Downstate Suburbs, $11,446 for the Upstate Urban Counties, and $11,860 for the Upstate Rural counties.  All less than New York City, mostly because of far higher costs for retired teachers here in NYC.

These are the level of expenditures at which New York City teachers, according to their union, are underpaid and have unfair expectations placed upon them.  Leading to, according to the Alliance for Quality Education, schools that are so bad they violate the state constitution.


Ironically, one didn’t hear that same level of entitlement from New York City teachers back in FY  1996, a time when NYC school spending was much, much lower.   The bars in the above chart are low relative to the scale because I used the same scale as for the FY 2016 chart.  They are that low even though the per-student spending figures have been adjusted upward by 50 percent for the inflation (using the Consumer Price Index) into $2016, for a fair comparison with the most recent year.   This was a two-decade period when most workers were falling behind inflation, generation by generation, something that still continues for the most part.

Back then (adjusted downward for the cost of living were appropriate) New York City was spending just $10,208 per student on its public schools, slightly above the U.S. average of $10,066.  But that was far below the average for the generally affluent Downstate NY Suburbs at $13,719 (36.3% above the U.S. average), the Upstate Urban Counties at $13,624 (35.3% higher), the Upstate Rural Counties at $13,478 (33.9% above average), and New Jersey at $11,951 (18.7%) above average.

In FY 1996 public school spending in these other areas was more than high enough, and for the most part the schools in these other areas were good enough at the time.   Not so for New York City, according to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity and widespread public opinion.

If New York City’s expenditures had increased to the level of those other areas, and those other areas had remained the same, there would have been fiscal equity, and school spending would have been more than adequate for good schools everywhere.  But that isn’t what the Campaign for Fiscal Equity turned out to be after. The goal was higher school spending across the board, and earlier retirement with richer benefits.

Even back then, New York City’s per student expenditures on instructional wages and benefits, at $5,751 (adjusted down), was above the U.S. average of $4,834, and the New Jersey average at $5,461 (mostly because New Jersey wasn’t funding its teacher pensions).  But it was far below the Downstate Suburbs at $8,047, the Upstate Urban Counties at $7,772, and the Upstate Rural Counties at $7,588.

Now consider those two charts and what they show.

How can anyone, with a straight face, dare to say New York City schools aren’t getting enough money now?  Dare to say that at the level of per student spending in FY 2016 (let along the much higher spending today, three years later) we don’t deserve smaller class sizes, more work and higher expectations for teachers, better tests that aren’t just t/f and a/b/c/d, improved vocational training, and appropriate education for the disabled and less well off?   Dare to demand still more and deny us anything, especially given other services have been de-fundedto pay for this and we have the highest tax burden in the country (except for retired public employees who are exempt from state and local income taxes)?

And yet no one seems to question whether or not we are getting fair value for the education dollar in New York City.

Instead, the value for the for the education dollar in the New York City schools was questioned back in FY 1996, when spending levels were far lower.   All the money is going to administration at 100 Livingston Street, they said.  It’s all going to special education, they said.   It’s all bad management, they said.  It’s all bad teachers, they said.   When the decision allowing the Campaign for Fiscal Equity Lawsuit came through more than two decades ago, there was outrage in the rest of New York State – where school spending was in fact much higher at the time. Higher, in part because of an unfair state funding formula that counted New York City’s children as less than one child.

As best as I can tell, I’m the only person who said back in FY 1996 that New York City school spending is unfairly low, and who now says that it is unfairly high, and we’ve been cheated by the UFT.  Everyone other person and interest group is saying the same thing as if nothing has changed.  The likely view of those following education finance is that 20 years ago I was in favor of education and teachers, and now I am against education and teachers.   But I haven’t changed at all.   If the level of spending in FY 1996 was as I as in FY 2016, I would have said the same things then as now.  And if the level of spending in FY 2016 were as low as in FY 1996, I would say the same thing now as then.   For everyone else, it seems, the facts be damned.


Among the things that have changed is the number of students per full time equivalent instructional worker.  (In the employment dataset, instructional includes non-teachers such as principals and administrators, and the full time equivalent measure consolidates part timers into a smaller number of full timers based on their work hours).

Back in October 1995, New York City had 12.6 students per full time equivalent instructional worker, slightly above the U.S. average of 12.0. But it had much, much higher class sizes than the U.S. average, because of a relatively large number of teachers in non-teaching, out of classroom, seniority assignments, and a large number of paraprofessionals put on the payroll as a jobs program by the city’s highly political community school boards.  The goal of every New York City teacher, it was said, was to get out of the classroom and coast to retirement, while the goal of every politically connected relative was to get a city school job and coast to retirement.

Under the brief period of so-called “school reform” in the early years of “Mayoral control,” most of the paraprofessional jobs and many of the out of classroom positions were eliminated, forcing teachers to teach – in exchange for a 20 percent pay increase for teachers. But those reforms have been reversed by the DeBlasio Administration (except for the pay increase). With more out of classroom assignments “to give teachers a job ladder.” A huge increase in the number of part time “UFT paraprofessionals” – why I don’t know, as this was never publicly debated, acknowledged, or reported in the press.

The number of students per full time equivalent New York City instructional employee fell to just 8.1 in FY 2016.   Just 8.1 students per full time equivalent instructional employee despite still-large class sizes, according to advocates for more school spending, thus requiring more money.   In the rest of New York State the number of students per instructional employee has plunged to 7.4.  Even in the U.S. as a whole it has fallen to 10.4, and yet it is claimed there are not enough teachers to go around.


One reason school districts the rest of New York State felt entitled to so much more money back in FY 1996, and New York City’s school district feels entitled to so much more money now, is that school spending isn’t really just about education.  It is about jobs for the connected, dues revenues for the union, and really, really, rich retirement benefits for those who once worked for the schools – or the union – and retired young.    The question isn’t how many public school children you have and what they need.  It is how many jobs your part of the state gets, how much they pay, and how early you get to retire.

This is exposed when school enrollment rises and school funding and staffing doesn’t go up, as in New York City in the late 1990s.  And when school enrollment falls and funding and staffing don’t go down, as in the past decade or so.   Even at expense of cuts in New York City subway maintenance and service as ridership soared.

New York City school enrollment was 6.4% lower in Fall 2015 than it had been in Fall 1995, a decrease of 67,372 to 981,667.   It increased and then fell in between, as the large millennial (Baby Boom echo) generation entered and left school.   But the number of full time equivalent instructional workers was 46.3% higher in March 2016 than it had been in October 1995, an increase of 38,497 dues paying members to 121,590.   New York City’s two-parent, native-born families still seem to be heading to the suburbs when their kids reach school age, since school enrollment increased by 9.6% over 20 years in the Downstate Suburbs, and 14.3% in New Jersey while falling in NYC.  These days, in fact, immigrant parents head for the suburbs too.

Overall, however, school enrollment in the portion of New York State outside New York City fell by 154,913 (8.8%) from fall 1995 to fall 2015, despite the increase in the Downstate Suburbs, due to a decrease of 44,379 (7.0%) in the Upstate Urban Counties and a plunge of 142,357 (27.8%) in the Upstate Rural Counties, where just about everyone who is well off works for the school district (funded by state aid).   Despite the 8.8% decrease in enrollment, there was a 28.1% increase in full time equivalent instructional employment in the rest of New York State, and a 14.6% increase in non-instructional employment, from October 1995 to March 2016.


There were just 16.4 students per full time equivalent non-instructional employee in the portion of New York State outside New York City in March 2016, down from 20.6 in October 1995 and far below the U.S. average of 24.2.  New York City continues to have far more students per non-instructional employee than average at 34.1, in part because NYC contracts out some non-instructional tasks such as food service and school buses.


With regard to non-instructional spending, however, the per-student cost of school transportation (buses) and operation and maintenance of plant (custodians) is extremely high throughout New York State.   It was $2,645 in New York City and $2,700 in the Downstate Suburbs in FY 2016, after downward adjustment for the cost of living, $2,258 in the Upstate Urban Counties and $2,231 in the Upstate Rural Counties.  All far above the U.S. average of $1,538.  New York City is that high even though far more students than average walk to school here, and they are then packed into far fewer square feet of building space per student than average.

The high level of New York City spending in these categories became an issue in the “school reform” era, but Mayor DeBlasio has reversed the related reforms, just as he reversed any reforms that called for a greater effort by and higher quality of New York City teachers.

Aside from school buses and custodians, New York City non-instructional expenditures remain relatively low, particularly in the school administration (principals, etc), general administration (superintendents, etc), instructional staff support and pupil support categories.  Offset, perhaps, by UFT “instructional” workers in higher-paid, pension spiking, out-of-classroom seniority assignments in these roles.

Overall, New York City’s total downward-adjusted non-instructional expenditure per student was $4,259 in FY 2016, below the U.S. average of $4,602 and far below the averages for the Downstate Suburbs ($6,430), the Upstate Urban Counties ($6,637), the Upstate Rural Counties ($6,870) and New Jersey ($6,646). You don’t hear the high level of non-instructional expenditures per student questioned in the rest of New York State today.


You did hear the level of non-instructional expenditures in New York City questioned back in FY 1996, when it was used as an excuse to not provide New York City with more state funds.   And yet despite all the complaints about the old Board of Education and all the people working at 110 Livingston Street, its headquarters, the total non-instructional expenditures per student in New York City (in $2016) was just $2,387 back then, far lower than today, far lower than FY 1996 level for the $3,320 U.S. on average, and vastly lower than the averages for the Downstate Suburbs ($4,435), the Upstate Urban Counties ($4,269), the Upstate Rural Counties ($3,942) and New Jersey ($4,268).

Even with regard to New York City school buses and custodians, the latter the subject of a 60 Minutes expose and other exposes…

Back in FY 1996 New York City’s expenditures per student, at $1,309 in today’s money, were much closer to the U.S. average of $1,215 and far below the averages for the Downstate Suburbs ($1,937), the Upstate Urban Counties ($1,884), the Upstate Rural Counties ($1,681), and New Jersey ($1,756). Maybe the custodians didn’t actually work two decades ago, but they weren’t that expensive compared with today.


Adjusted for inflation, New York City’s total per student spending was 110.6% higher in FY 2016 than it had been in FY 1996.  It more than doubled, at the expense of everything else. Elsewhere in New York State, even though spending  was already high enough, and the schools good enough, back in FY 1996, by FY 2016 spending had increased by 51.4% in the Downstate Suburbs, 54.2% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 62.6% in the Upstate Rural Counties.  Total spending per student increased 48.6% in New Jersey.

Despite cutbacks in some low-tax states in the wake of the Great Recession, overall U.S. public school expenditures per student were up 35.2% over 20 years.


The big percentage gain in total expenditures went to soaring instructional employee benefits, mostly for pensions and retiree health insurance.   FY 1996 was before most of the retroactive pension increases that vastly increased the benefits retiring New York City teachers received, compared with what they had been promised (other than the FY 1991 early retirement “incentive,” the first of many).   And FY 1996 was before most of the pension underfunding by tax-cutting politicians in lower tax states.  Younger generations of Americans have yet to begin fully paying for both.

As it is, from FY 1996 to FY 2016 instructional employee benefits per student soared by 80.8% in the U.S., after adjustment for inflation, nearly doubling.   The increase was more than double at 114.9% in the Downstate Suburbs, 133.1% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 149.1% in the Upstate Rural Counties, and 148.7% in New Jersey, where taxpayers are still putting in less far than pension actuaries say is required for that state’s teacher pension fund to get out of the hole.

In New York City the increase was 258.5%, more than 3 ½ times.

Here in New York City, the link between soaring retirement costs and soaring school taxes, demands for even more money, and school service cuts is under Omerta.  Perhaps that’s one reason why candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon seems to believe that school spending was “cut” in New York City during the recession when in fact it continued to rise, but was diverted to paying for of all those pension increases.  Elsewhere in the country, however, the impact of soaring pension costs is in the news.

If it needed any more prodding about the looming budget pitfalls, the Los Angeles Unified School District certainly got it this week. An analysis by the nonprofit journalism organization CALmatters showed that the cost of L.A. Unified’s employee benefits has been growing faster than its base funding for five years. And a report by an outside task force put the district’s dilemma in blunt terms:

“L.A. Unified is facing a structural budget deficit which threatens its long-term viability and its ability to deliver basic education programs. The District’s own forecasts show it will have exhausted its reserve fund balance by 2020-21, will have a budget deficit of $400 million in 2020-21, and therefore be insolvent.”

The report noted that the district’s pension contributions will rise dramatically in coming years. And for the report’s ultimate shocker, there’s this: Within 13 years, the district’s healthcare and pension costs will eat up more than half its annual budget.

Nine years into a bull market, housing prices in California have reached record highs. Investors are enjoying soaring capital gains, which in turn has created a windfall for the state budget. California is now sitting on $16 billion in budget reserves while many states struggle to balance their budgets. But beneath this patina of prosperity, many cities are careening toward bankruptcy. Schools are laying off employees and slashing programs. Some districts complain they are having trouble retaining teachers. What gives?

School-district pension costs have more than doubled since 2013, and the state legislative analyst’s office predicts they will climb another 30% over the next two years. For every dollar cities spend on worker salaries, they have to pay 32 cents to Calpers. This effective payroll “tax” charged by Calpers will increase to nearly 50 cents on the dollar by 2024. Retirement costs already equal 44% of teacher pay in San Francisco.

Local officials are typically loath to tell voters that they need to raise taxes because pensions are squeezing out services. To sell a $620 parcel tax in 2016, Davis Joint Unified School District in Yolo County warned: “Without the parcel tax, we could not sustain the enrichment and choice that other districts no longer can afford.”

But the local teachers union complains that the parcel tax burdens school employees, who are being priced out of the area. State Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat, has introduced a bill to exempt Davis school-district employees from the parcel tax. The bill passed the state Senate in May and is currently being considered by the Assembly.

Just as retired public employees are exempt from state and local income taxes in New York State, and bills are repeatedly introduced in the New York State legislature to exempt them for property taxes as well.   A parcel tax is an equal tax on every real estate lot regardless of value, and thus hits those in cheaper homes on smaller lots harder.  A rising regressive tax in another so-called “progressive” state that public employees don’t think they should have to pay.

Voters were told in 2008 that Prop A’s $198 parcel tax was needed because “San Francisco has the highest cost of living of any city in California” and with the parcel tax, the schools could “recruit and pay teachers a living wage so they don’t keep leaving.”  Voters passed Prop A.

Proposition G asks for another parcel tax — this one for $298 a parcel because, “San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the country” and the tax will help teachers “afford to live here.”

In fiscal year 2009-2010, San Francisco’s school district paid $20 million to CalSTRS. In fiscal year 2016-2017, it was $53 million. And that number is going to get bigger by about $5 million a year until at least 2020.  This is one reason the school district says it needs a parcel tax to fund teacher salaries.

Joe Nation is a professor of public policy at Stanford. He says teachers should be paid more, but if pensions are taking away from money for teachers salaries, voters should know. “If you’re asking to raise taxes for pensions, just say it’s for pensions,” said Nation.

The loudest rallying cries from Colorado teachers protesting for more education dollars were about dwindling paychecks that are steadily losing ground to the state’s rising cost of living.

Teachers usually say a persistent funding shortage, which has cost public schools $6.6 billion since 2009, led them to walk off the job and close down schools last week. Among the biggest reasons for lagging pay is one of the least understood: The rising cost of state pensions.

Colorado isn’t the only state where an underfunded retirement system has played a role in a teacher uprising sweeping the U.S. In Kentucky, educators in at least 20 school districts walked out of their classrooms after the GOP-led Legislature in March passed a measure reducing retirement benefits for future teachers.

Elsewhere, pay and other benefits, such as health care, have been at the forefront of teachers’ demands, including in Arizona, where a historic statewide strike has closed down schools for four days. But that doesn’t mean rising pension costs are not a factor behind the scenes.

Public pension systems nationwide face record levels of debt, totaling $1.4 trillion, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts study. That puts downward pressure on wages and benefit checks as governments struggle to close the funding gap. It suggests the recent outcry over teacher pay could spread in coming years, whether pension costs are widely acknowledged as a driving factor or not.

I provided a full overview of all the pension increases for New York City teachers, and their effect on where the city’s education dollar has gone, through FY 2016 here.


Yes there are states where per-student spending plunged during the recession and taxes were cut after it.   But despite soaring pension costs, in the U.S. as a whole per student spending on instructional wages and salaries increased by 17.4 percent from FY 1996 to FY 2016, adjusted for inflation.  Even as the cash pay of most private sector workers fell behind inflation, generation by generation, over the two decades.

The increase was 34.3% more than inflation in the Downstate Suburbs, 24.0% more in the Upstate Urban Counties, 29.8% more in the Upstate Rural Counties, and 25.9% in New Jersey.

In New York City, instructional cash pay per student increased by 83.2% more than inflation, nearly doubling from FY 1996 to FY 2016.

This includes the 20.0% teacher pay increase under former Mayor Bloomberg, in exchange for fewer hours and years spent in out-of-classroom assignments.   What it does not include is most of the teacher pay increase under the ten-year contract signed by current Mayor DeBlasio, most of which is only taking place now in FY 2019.   NYC instructional cash pay per student is thus currently vastly higher than the data shows for FY 2016, and even higher relative to FY 1996.

Back in FY 1996, moreover, average pay per NYC teacherwas very low, and starting pay for New York City teachers was very, very low, as I showed at the time.   But even adjusted down for the higher cost of living here, instructional wages and salaries per NYC studentwere well above the U.S. average, because of all the teachers who were out of the classroom.  The new childbirth leave deal signed by Mayor DeBlasio, far richer than the new family leave law for all private sector workers in the state – which we pay for ourselves with money out of our paycheck – will mean even more paid time for teachers who are not teaching students.


Adding it up, adjusted for inflation per student instructional compensation (wages and salaries and benefits) increased by 29.3% in the U.S. from FY 1996 to FY 2016, by 51.8% in the Downstate Suburbs, by 47.3% in the Upstate NY Urban Counties, by 56.3% in the Upstate Rural Counties, and by 42.5% in New Jersey.

And by 125.5% for New York City, more than doubling.  More than doubling even as almost everyone else fell behind, with even Wall Street compensation falling after 2008!  And it is far higher today.


Nor were other politically powerful, campaign-contributing unions neglected during the era of what was alleged to be school reform, and its reversal.   From FY 1996 to FY 2016 per student expenditures on the operation and maintenance of plant (custodians) increased by 22.0% in the U.S. as a whole, adjusted for inflation, 27.4% in the Downstate Suburbs, 26.7% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 44.7% in the Upstate Rural Counties, 31.9% in New Jersey…

And 107.4% in New York City, more than doubling.


Per student expenditures on student transportation increased by 37.1% in the United States, 60.8% in the Downstate Suburbs, 65.8% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 76.0% in the Upstate Rural Counties, 21.2% in New Jersey…

And 92.8% in New York City, nearly doubling.

As was the case for teachers, per student spending on non-instructional wages and salaries increased by more than inflation, but per student expenditures on non-instructional benefits increased far faster still.


On a dollar rather than percentage basis, one finds that New York City’s instructional wages and salaries increased by $3,629 per student from FY 1996 to FY 2016 after adjustment for inflation, far more than the U.S. average and other areas of the state.   And its instructional employee benefit costs per student increased by $3,590 per student, also far more than the U.S. average and other areas of the state.

For wages and salaries alone, the New York City instructional increase was $72,589 per 20 students.  That was the increase, not the total, at $204,638 per 20 students and $122,783 per 12 students. According to the American Community Survey the median cash pay of New York City resident workers with graduate degrees was, once again,  $75,808.


In keeping with the theme of the every escalating entitlement of those who were better off to start with, the big dollar increases in per student non-instructional expenditures in New York City from FY 1996 to FY 2016 were in the operation and maintenance of plant (custodians) and student transportation (the school bus companies, with their big campaign contributions to the City Council).

Per student spending on general administration and pupil support fell. It remains to be seen if the additional social workers for children from troubled families mandated by the City Council in the latest budget will have a significant impact on the trend in pupil support expenditures.  But to pay for higher spending on schools, notably for teacher pensions, funding for the Administration for Children’s Services has also fallen behind inflation.   As takes place every time money gets short in New York City.


With expenditures rising, revenues increased as well.   From FY 1996 to FY 2016, after adjustment for inflation, total public school revenues per student increased by 39.7% in the U.S., 53.5% in the Downstate Suburbs, 61.1% in the Upstate Urban Counties, 66.7% in the Upstate Rural Counties, 57.9% in New Jersey…

And 138.2% in New York City, far more than doubling, also including a shift in the reduction in expenditures for the cost of living, as New York City’s private sector workers are not as well off relative to the U.S. average as they once were.  Excluding that factor, the increase in per student expenditures in New York City was merely 127.5%, still far more than doubling.


There are some in New York’s public education and advocacy communitycartel who are prepared to concede that the City of New York has treated the schools fairly.  Including the soaring cost of retirement benefits, and adjusted for inflation (and the local cost of living), New York City’s local government school revenues increased by $7,750 per student from FY 1996 to FY 2016.  Which is an increase of $155,000 per 20 students or $93,000 per 12 students.

On the other hand advocates for still higher school spending deeply resent that elsewhere in the state, local government school revenues per student have been constrained by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s soft (over-ridden by a 60 percent vote) property tax increase cap.  Local government school revenues per student increased by $1,757, adjusted for inflation, in the U.S. from FY 1996 to FY 2016.  The increase in New Jersey was $3,676 per student in New Jersey.  Despite Cuomo’s property tax cap, and in the increase was $4,086 on average in the Downstate Suburbs, $2,546 in the Upstate Urban Counties, $2,916 in the Upstate Rural Counties, and $3,676 in New Jersey.

What the advocates really resent, however, is that Governor Cuomo has not increased state government school revenues enough.   State government elementary and secondary school revenues increased by $1,755 per student from FY 1996 to FY 2016, adjusted for inflation, in the U.S. as a whole.  Within New York, and adjusted for the cost of living, the increase was $4,548 per student for New York City, $3,136 for the Downstate Suburbs, $5,257 for the Upstate Urban Counties, and $5,598 for the Upstate Rural Counties. New Jersey’s state funding increased by $2,939 per student over 20 years.

Adding it up, New York City’s total elementary and secondary school revenues per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by $12,760 with an adjustment for the cost of living applied, and $15,672 in straight dollars.  Total per student revenue in the U.S. – not the increase the actual total – was $14,402 in FY 2016.  New York City’s per student public school revenue increase is about the same as the U.S. per student revenue total!


You might have heard about teacher strikes elsewhere in the United States.

The strikes began on February 22nd, when teachers in West Virginia walked out. Two weeks later the state’s Republican governor gave them a 5% pay rise—bringing the average high-school teacher’s salary to just under $48,000. Kentucky’s legislature approved a sizeable increase after teachers there walked out. A threatened strike in Oklahoma prompted legislators to boost education funding and teacher salaries (the teachers struck for nine days anyway). Last week teachers in Colorado and Arizona walked out to protest against low salaries and stagnant funding.

The acute crisis in public education dates back to the recession of 2008, which hit many states’ property-dependent tax receipts.

Most states cut school funding; in some, it has yet to return to its level before 2008. In inflation-adjusted terms, teacher salaries are almost 5% lower than they were a decade ago, even as teachers’ retirement contributions and health-insurance premiums have gone up. Some teachers even pay from their own pockets for classroom supplies that state funding fails to cover.

And some states have continued to cut taxes and education spending. According to Michael Hansen of the Brookings Institution, school funding in Arizona remains 35% below pre-recession levels.

States such as Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma have indeed cut tax revenues, as a percent of their residents’ personal income, even though they were already among the lowest-taxed states, data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau shows.

But these states are outliers.  Looking at the U.S. average, per student school spending and teacher pay increased by more than inflation from FY 1996 to FY 2016, and the number of students per teacher fell — despite soaring pension and health care costs for taxpayers along with the soaring costs for new teachers.

What about the outlier in the other direction?  The highest taxed state in the U.S., New York, and the highest taxed part of it, New York City.  The state where teachers and retirees, as represented by the United Federation of Teachers, have treated children, taxpayers, beneficiaries of other public services, everyone else with as much disrespect as the disrespect teachers have been treated with in Colorado, Arizona, and Oklahoma?  The states where everyone else should be going on strike against the teachers – the early retired teachers specifically – not the other way around.

You get the same demands for less work, lower expectations, and more money, here as there.  You get the same claims of a “teacher shortage,” engineered despite sky-high teacher compensation in total, here as there.  The expectations of the schools are no different, despite radically different levels of funding.  In each type of place entitlement fuels entitlement, with those who are already ahead demanding more and more, and everyone else just hoping not to be left with less and less.  The UFT presumably can’t wait for the next fiscal crisis to hammer the people of New York City even more.