Category Archives: education

Long Term Pension Data for New York and New Jersey to 2016: Teacher Pensions

Across the country taxpayer pension costs for public schools are soaring, and state and local taxes are being increased while money actually spent on education is being cut to pay for it. You see it in California, where a huge tax increase “for education” went exclusively to pensions, and in Illinois, where the City of Chicago’s schools are on the brink of bankruptcy. You see it in Kansas and Oklahoma. In some cases soaring pension costs are the result of past taxpayers’ unwillingness to fund the pensions teachers had been promised, promised for some in lieu of Social Security, which those teachers will not be eligible to receive. In other cases pension costs are soaring because politically powerful teachers’ unions cut deals with the politicians they controlled to drastically increase pension benefits, beyond what had been promised and funded. In many cases there is a mix of both factors.

New York City happens to be the place where the teachers’ union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), is perhaps the most guilty, and taxpayers are the least guilty, with regard to the pension crisis. And it the place where the burden of teacher retirement is the greatest. The result is large class sizes despite extremely high public school spending, and a host of services that New York City children do not receive. With virtually all New York politicians in on the deals that have left the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System (NYC TRS) among the most underfunded in the country, however, there has been a desperate attempt to cover up the damage. So the consequences of retroactive pension increases for NYC teachers (and police officers and firefighters) have shown up not so much in education (and policing and firefighting), but in every other public service in New York. And all of this is under Omerta.

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FY 2015 Census Bureau Data on Public School Spending In New York: Robbed, Sneered At, Resented and Sued

If you live in New York State, there is a lawsuit that claims you have it too good. Your taxes are too low, despite being the highest in the country at the state and local level combined, and too much money is being spent on public services other than public schools, such as mass transit, social services, housing, parks, libraries, everything else. The lawsuit has been filed by the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), funded in part by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), New York City’s teachers’ union, and the NYSUT, the New York State teacher’s union. It claims that New York State residents have stolen $billions for people working in New York’s schools each and every year for more than a decade. And that as a result we are getting what we deserve: schools that are so bad that at least in New York City and Syracuse, they violate the state constitution.

Of course the AQE is claiming it is suing “the state,” not the people who live in it.   But where would “the state” get the additional $billions that those working in education demand be spent on schools? From higher taxes and lower spending on other things, that’s where. The same place that the additional spending on schools that has happened in the past came from. And note that while the claim is that the schools are bad, there is no admission that perhaps that New Yorkers are being cheated by those who work for the public schools. Instead the assertion is the other way around – that those who work in the schools are being cheated by New Yorkers, because they aren’t being given the money they deserve. But how much are the schools getting getting? Let’s go to the Census Bureau’s public education finance data and find out.

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Education: Census Bureau Government Finances Data for FY 2004 and FY 2014

For the United States and most parts of it, the decade from FY 2004 to FY 2014 saw soaring public employee retirement costs, and weak growth for taxpayer income. In response to these trends state government assistance for public elementary and secondary schools fell relative to the income of all state residents, and total spending on public schools fell as a share of everyone’s income as well. But there was an offsetting factor. School enrollment fell as a share of the total population, and in many cases in absolute numbers, as the very large “Baby Boom Echo (Gen Y, Millennials) Generation exited school with smaller generations behind them.

At the same time, and perhaps driven by the same demographic shifts, state and local government spending on public higher education increased when measured per $1,000 of everyone’s personal income. But how did different states compare, and how was per-student elementary and secondary school spending affected? That is the subject of this post.

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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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State and Local Government Employment in 2002 and 2014: Higher Education

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?

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