In the wake of 9/11, when about 3,000 civilians were killed on U.S. soil despite $billions spent on defense, a series of failures was revealed. Various agencies had the information to identify and stop the attack, but failed to cooperate. Despite a huge military posted all over the world, there were only two military airplanes defending the entire East Coast of the United States, only one of which was armed. And the non-military agencies tasked with defending the U.S., such as the Coast Guard, U.S. Customs Agency, and Immigration and Naturalization Service, were distributed among a variety of federal departments, with little emphasis on any of them and no coordination between them. To remedy this 22, agencies were removed from other Departments and integrated into a new Department of Homeland Security.
Today, we face the equivalent of 9/11 in every part of the country every year. Life expectancy is falling, due to the cumulative disadvantage foisted on later born generations by those who came before, an opioid epidemic, and rising suicide. Life expectancy is set to fall for the third consecutive year for the first time in 100 years.
But this crisis has been building for two decades, its scope not understood until a couple of economists, with expertise not in vital statistics but rather in value added taxes, brought it to public attention.
The belated realization of what is happening is a failure for this country’s policy wonks and journalists every bit as large as 9/11 was for our intelligence agencies and military. And a similar response is required.
Wait until next year! When the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2015 data on public education finance last month, I thought that instructional (ie. teacher) wages and benefits per 20 students in the New York City public schools might exceed $300,000 for that year. But instead it came it came up just short at $297,482. Moreover, total spending per student in the NYC schools also came up just short of Greenwich, Connecticut, at $25,068 compared with $25,737. Thought NYC did spend more per student than Westport ($23,798) or Darien ($20,805).
Those are among the tidbits that can be gleaned from my compilation of this data, for 2015 and (with an adjustment for inflation) 2005. As is my custom, I’m going to provide the spreadsheets now, think about them for a while, and then provide my analysis and express my opinion. The data presented includes revenues and expenditures per student, by category, for the U.S., New York City and other regions of New York State, selected other states, and every school district in New York and New Jersey. In some cases with and without an adjustment for the higher cost of living on the Northeast corridor, which reduces the value of school spending here compared with the U.S. average. A discussion of where the data comes from and how it was tabulated (mostly copied from last year) and links to the new spreadsheets, follow.
The Governments Division of the U.S Census Bureau released its detailed state and local finance data for FY 2014 on January 31, and I have compiled it and produced a couple of large tables – one for all state governments and one for all local governments by state – comparing that year with FY 2004. The data shows, by category, the amount of revenues (property taxes, federal aid), expenditures (public school spending, police department spending) and debt for every state in the country and, at the local government level, for New York City and the Rest of New York State separately.
To be comparable across states and across the years, the data is presented per $1,000 of the personal income of all the residents of each state. Think of it this way. Your household else spends X percent of its household budget on food, X percent on housing, etc. And, via the taxes and government fees you pay, X percent of its income on public schools, X percent on police, etc. The data is presented per $1,000 rather than as a percent to make the data for small categories easier to see. I plan to write a series of posts, with additional tables and charts, for different aspects of state and local government finance separately. But in the triumph of hope over experience, in this post I will explain where the data comes from and how it was compiled, provide the whole database for download up front, and invite people to look at the numbers themselves at the same time I do, and decide for themselves what the data means. Before getting my take on it.
From FY 2002, the last NYC budget before Mike Bloomberg became Mayor, to FY 2014, the last budget of his Mayoralty, New York City’s public school expenditures per student increased by 38.4% in real dollars (adjusted for inflation and for relative private sector wages that year). That is a huge increase in spending on the most expensive public service there is, during a decade when the pay of most private sector workers fell behind inflation. The U.S. average gain in public school spending per student was 3.8%. During the Bloomberg years NYC’s spending on instructional (mostly teachers) compensation per student increased 49.3%, including a 22.4% increase in wages and salaries and 125.0% (more than doubling) on benefits, including pensions. The U.S. average gains were 6.3% for total compensation and 43.9% for benefits, with a 2.4% decrease in instructional wages and salaries per student.
And yet at the end of this period, during the 2013 campaign for Mayor, every candidate but one said either that the schools were no better, or perhaps worse, than they had been before “Education Mayor” Bloomberg and the shift to Mayoral control. Most so-called education advocates agreed. The United Federation of Teachers, which funds many of those advocates, demanded even more money for its members, in exchange for less time spent working with students, and lower expectations as to their level of effort. And got it. And yet there is still extensive resentment, by many of those speaking for those working in education in NYC, toward the people and children of the city. A feeling that they are still being treated unfairly and deserve even more. But is that true? And what was actually received in exchange for all that additional money?
One of the big issues in last year’s New York City budget negotiations was the level of police staffing. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and the politicians it helps keep in office asserted that without thousands of additional dues-paying members, New Yorkers would no be longer kept safe. The debate went on and on for months, with many articles and reports from many news sources based on many press releases and statements from many interested parties. Through it all, however, I cannot recall a single report providing objective information on how many police officers New York City already has, relative to its population, compared with other places. In the end the number of officers was increased by 1,000, although I don’t recall any PBA statements conceding that its members were willing to keep us safe in exchange.
This is the fourth post in a series on state and local government employment for FY 2002 to FY 2014, based on data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau. The data shows that while police officer employment is down per 100,000 residents in New York City compared with 12 years earlier, mostly due to falling behind the city’s population growth (though the number of officers also decreased), it remains at the same ratio it has been relative to the U.S. average. New York City had 2.8 times as many police officers per 100,000 residents as the U.S. average at a time that New Yorkers were being threatened if they didn’t’ pay up for thousands more, and nobody deigned to even talk about this.
In the United States, more government workers are employed in elementary and secondary education than any in other local government function, and indeed any government function period. At the state level, however, more government workers are employed in colleges and universities than in any other function. In March 2014, according to data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau, the states employed 547 full time equivalent workers in state colleges and universities per 100,000 people, up from 523 back in March 2002. This figure did not include most community colleges, which are generally assigned to local government, but did include the four year colleges of the City University of New York, now tabulated as state government despite its historic association with the City of New York.
The fact that state higher education employment actually increased relative to population over 12 years is surprising, given press coverage of reductions in services and courses available to students over those years. One reason may be that the large “Baby Boom Echo” generation was passing through the college years during this time, and may have been more likely to linger in graduate school given the job market in the aftermath of the great recession. The college age population has started to fall more recently and with it, college enrollment, according to press reports. This data, however, still raises a fundamental question. Given that the purpose of higher education purportedly is education, why were there more than twice as many full time equivalent state government higher education non-instructional workers in March 2014 than there were instructional workers?
Relative to population and even, in some places, in absolute numbers, state and local government employment has fallen in recent years as the cost of retired public employees has soared and tax bases have stagnated. Although many states and localities tried to shield elementary and secondary schools from the fiscal impact of past decisions as long as possible, in the wake of the Great Recession the schools have not been immune.
There are other factors, however, that have offset falling employment. First with the large “Baby Boom echo” generation exiting school age, school age children are a shrinking share of the population. In fact the number of children age 3 to 17 enrolled in school has fallen in the U.S. in absolute numbers from 2002 to 2014. And second, private school employment is rising in many places including New York City, where it was relatively high to begin with.