Category Archives: education finance

The DeBlasio Budget: Hiding the Facts

What is the most important fact about Mayor DeBlasio’s budget proposal?

http://www1.nyc.gov/site/omb/publications/finplan01-17.page

The unsaid.  During the Bloomberg Administration the “Budget Summary” document had included summary tables that showed how much money was spent on each agency for wages and salaries, how much for pensions, how much for other benefits, how much for interest, how much for lawsuits, how much for other non-personnel costs such as contracts and supplies, and how much of each function is funded by the city, and how much by other layers of government.

Last year DeBlasio provided that table for his budget proposal, but not for past years.  But I was able to make a comparison with that table from prior years and write this post.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/new-york-citys-fy-2017-budget-proposal-more-for-those-who-have-more-leaves-less-for-those-who-have-less/

This year DeBlasio has apparently ordered that this information be omitted from the Budget Summary altogether, which is exactly the sort of stuff I fear we can expect from Trump.

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Schools Are Obsolete II

Not long ago, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, as part of a campaign to obtain the support of the United Federation of Teachers, released a report critical of the financial practices of the charter school network Success Academy. A page 21, the report noted:

https://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FK15_092A.pdf

“Success Academy invoices to DOE bi-monthly for per pupil funding for general and special education services that it provides to students who reside in New York City. For Fiscal Year 2015, Success Academy was entitled to receive $13,777 per year for each of its students who reside in New York City. Further, Success Academy was entitled to receive an additional $10,390 per year for each student that was mandated to receive and was provided special education services for between 20 to 60 percent of the school instructional week, and an additional $19,049 per year for each student that was mandated to receive and was provided special education services for more than 60 percent of the school instructional week.”

My first impression is that’s a whole lotta money. For non-special education children, that is $275,540 per 20 students and $165,324 per 12 students. On the other hand, I know that this is less than the amount NYC district schools receive. Does that make me think that charter schools are a better deal? In part. But what it mostly does is further convinces me that education needs to be rethought and reorganized from the ground up. For that amount of money, or even less money, a new system, unencumbered by the deals, favors, practices and privileges of the past, could provide far better values for students, younger and future teachers and taxpayers alike. For the existing system, school reform has been defeated and its time to face it. Only by making a clean break will anything get better, or even avoid getting worse.

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Public School Finance in the Bloomberg Years: A Detailed, Comprehensive Analysis for NYC and Elsewhere

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?

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Census Education Finance Data for FY 2014 (Compared with FY 2002)

The Census Bureau’s annual education finance data was released for FY 2014 on Friday June 11. The data shows that NYC spent $24,004 per student that year, slightly below the average of the Downstate Suburbs ($25,041) but far higher than the average for New Jersey ($19,636), Connecticut ($19,388), Massachusetts ($16,884) and Maryland ($15,812).   The Northeast Corridor is a generally high wage, high cost of living area. Even adjusting for this, however, New York City’s average adjusted expenditure per student, at $18,764, was nearly 50 percent higher than the U.S. average of $12,625. On an unadjusted basis New York City spent $14,665 per student on instructional (mostly teacher) wages, salaries and benefits alone, or $293,300 per 20 students and $175,980 per 12 students. And this was at a time when the contract for NYC teachers had been expired for years; spending has soared since, as a result of retroactive pay for past years including FY 2014.

One finds the same pattern for Upstate New York. There, spending averaged $19,428 per student in urban counties and $20,490 per student in rural counties. This compares with the U.S. average of $12,625, the Ohio average of $12,907, and the Pennsylvania average of $16,585, and the Vermont average of $20,488. Links to detailed spreadsheets with data for every school district in New York and New Jersey, and per-student revenues and expenditures by category of revenue and expenditure, follow a discussion of where the data comes from and how it was compiled. 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. If you want the facts without the opinion, this is the post for you.

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New York City’s FY 2017 Budget Proposal: More for Those Who Have More Leaves Less for Those Who Have Less

As noted in my prior post, the current New York City budget documents are being presented in a way that makes it more difficult to compare the proposed level of expenditures, by agency, for FY 2017 with the level of expenditures in the past on a basis that includes the cost of pensions and other fringe benefits.   Press coverage of the budget, therefore, has apparently been limited to the story the Mayor wanted to tell, in the little initiatives and cutbacks the press release chose to highlight. A more complete picture emerges when the latest budget documents are compared with those from past fiscal years, a comparison I made in the tables in this spreadsheet.

Analysis of NYC Budget FY2017

The cost of city government continues to rise relative to the income of city residents, as public employees continue to get richer and richer — relative to those who pay their bills. Richer mostly in the form of increased retirement benefits, benefits which are not appreciated when these employees are working. This pattern, established prior to the DeBlasio Administration, has continued during it, along with an increase in spending concentrated on one of the departments for which NYC spending was already high relative to other places. And the tax increases and service cuts are bound to get worse when there is no longer a stock market bubble and excess profit and compensation on Wall Street to cover it up. A series of charts follows.

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New York City’s FY 2017 Budget Proposal: Change from the Recent Past

One of Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s best innovations, from a truth telling point of view, was the introduction of a table in NYC budget documents that shows how much different government functions actually cost us. By allocating pension, fringe benefit and debt service costs to the different agencies. And by deducting federal and state aid that merely passed through the city’s budget, allowing everyone to see the money the city actually has to pay for in local taxes and fees for different functions. With a New York Democratic Administration coming back in, with an assumed attitude that what the serfs don’t know they don’t deserve to know, I wondered how far it would dare to go to restore the prior level of obfuscation.

The answer is that the Bloomberg table remains for the proposed budget, if in a stripped down format. But the identical tables for the prior fiscal year or two, and the change between the prior fiscal year and the current one, and the current one and the budget proposal, have been removed. So there is no longer an easy way to see what is changing. And yet the budget documents from prior fiscal years are still up on the website of the city’s Office of Management and Budget. Someone is apparently counting on the unwillingness of the City Hall press core and various pundits to type the data from the tables – only available in PDF format — into a spreadsheet, check it once or twice, and examine the results.   I did so, however, and found that according to the Mayor’s optimistic estimate of NYC residents’ personal income in FY 2017, it will have increased 14.5% (adjusted for inflation) from FY 2007. And according to the Mayor’s budget proposal, NYC spending will have increased 23.8%, and city-funded spending will have increased by 29.9%.

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Local Government Employment in 2002 and 2014: Public Schools

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.

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