Category Archives: education

Comparative Public Education Finances in FY 2000 and FY 2020:  A Brief Review

As everyone who has gotten their information from New York’s local media over the past 20 years is aware, the New York City schools and its unionized teachers owe the children of New York City nothing, because the schools are underfunded and understaffed, and teachers unsupported by the rest of us, leading to large class sizes and teachers leaving for better jobs.  There is a constant stream of press releases to this effect, and no elected official seeking to maintain perpetual incumbency dares to contradict it.   And those seeking to advocate for more school funding or better conditions for teachers elsewhere would prefer that the New York City public schools not be discussed at all.

So, it has been left to this unpaid avocational blogger to tabulate and publish the readily available data released by the Census Bureau each year on how much New York City schools actually spend, compared with other places and with the past.  Since others are paid to not make this information available.

The past two years, years of pandemic, have been unusual and unrepresentative, and perhaps not relevant to any discussion of choices that have been made.  Therefore, I’m not going to go into the kind of detailed multi-post comparisons I did last year based on FY 2019 data, and two years before that based on FY 2017 data.  But perhaps a simple FY 2020 to FY 2000 comparison will be easier to digest.  A discussion of seven nine charts (sorry, can’t help myself), a correlation analysis, and spreadsheets with data for every school district in New York and New Jersey for FY 2020 and for FY 2000 (adjusted for inflation into $2020) follow.

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Education in New York: Stop Trying, Stop Lying, Pursue Alternatives

Year after year, deal after deal, the United Federation of Teachers continues to jack up the cost of providing even a decent education for NYC’s children, by ordering its politicians to irrevocably allow them to work fewer years, fewer hours with children, and fewer days, with less accountability, and get paid more for it compared with the people who don’t matter.  No matter how high spending goes, no matter how high taxes go, no matter how much other needs are neglected, no matter what other services are cut, it is never enough.  Even after doubling to a level far above just about anywhere else, as shown in my prior post.

And since that works out so well for them (or at least some of them), and because they have developed such a sense of entitlement that they are completely incapable of enlightened self interest (the belief that in the long run self-interest requires accounting for the needs of other people too), it will never, ever, get any better.

After the 2008 25/55 pension deal for NYC teachers, the last straw and the deal that ended “school reform” in New York, I thought about what could be done for seven years.  

And the title of this post is the formula I came up with.   All you have to do is start with a blank state, without the UFT contract, its repeatedly retroactively enriched pensions (that might have been increased again last night at 3 am in secret but can never then be reduced), the bureaucratic mess coming down from the state under UFT/NYSUT orders, and the Department of EducationEarly Retirement, and you’ll see that for far less money than was spent in NYC in FY 2019 (and vastly less than today) it would be possible to have a class size of 12, with teachers who are paid more in total compensation than the average person who is paying for them.  Like the U.S. health care system, for which we are already paying as much as developed countries do for universal health care, if New York’s school system didn’t already exist no one would dare to suggest it.

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Comparative Public School Spending from FY 1997 to FY 2019: In New York The More They Get, the More They Feel Entitled To, and The Less They Provide in Return

Let’s start this post the way the prior one ended, with the quote from the ACLU, referring to the level of public school funding in New York in FY 2019.

https://www.nyclu.org/en/news/ny-cheating-its-schools-out-billions-dollars

Every year, the government of New York shirks its legal responsibility to adequately fund our public schools.

In 2006, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled New York was violating students’ constitutional right to a “sound and basic education” by not putting enough money into its schools. The court ordered that schools were entitled to $5.5 billion more in unrestricted state funding, known as Foundation Aid….

But year after year, state lawmakers substituted politics for the Foundation Aid Formula, shortchanging schools and hurting students who need the money most.

That is, simply put, not true.  In the 1990s New York City school spending was low, in part because a state school aid formula discriminated against the city’s children.  Judge Leland DeGrasse ordered the city’s school aid to be increased by $1.9 billion, based on the low funding levels of the time.

https://trellis.law/judge/leland.g.degrasse

As a trial judge, he ruled against New York’s system for financing public schools in Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. State. Ultimately, the decision, which sought to overhaul the state aid-to-education formulas, was appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, which resulted in an additional $1.9 billion in state aid awarded to New York City schools.

I know this history because I provided data to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the same kind of data that will be discussed below.  Much to my disappointment, however, CFE turned out not to be interested in either fiscal equity or better schools – just a richer deal for those working in the public school system.  So despite another $1.9 billion (and another $1.9 billion and another $1.9 billion and another $1.9 billion) they kept suing. In exchange for political support for his election for Governor, Eliot Spitzer then settled the suit for even more money.  No judge ever ordered it, or found that was what was required. It was a political deal, with a massive increase in pension benefits for teachers as part of the same deal, not better education.

That deal, which multiplied by a bunch of prior retroactive pension increase deals (now starting up yet again), was for me a kind of last straw. So what was the level of school spending in NYC, by category and compared with other places and the past, in FY 2019 when the ACLU claimed that the people of New York were cheating those who worked in education out of $billions?  Read on and find out.

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Census Bureau Public School Finances Data for FY 2019: New York’s Sky High Spending Per Student Is Soaring Further As Enrollment Falls

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual elementary and secondary school finances data for FY 2019 on May 18th2021, and as usual I have downloaded and compiled it.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances/newsroom/updates/fy-2019.html

Anyone else could do the same – any media source, any government agency, any public policy analysis organization, any politician, any candidate for Mayor of New York City or City Council – if they were willing to see what it shows.  And any could send postcards to everyone in New York City with the following information.

In FY 2019, the New York City school district spent $31,578 per student.  That was more than double the U.S. average of $15,569, and higher than the averages of $29,451 for the Downstate NY Suburbs, $22,782 for New Jersey, $19,707 for Massachusetts, and $23,686 for Connecticut.  These are high-wage high-cost of living areas on the Northeast Corridor, but adjusted downward for this factor New York still spent $24,764 per student, still 59.1% higher than the U.S. average and higher than the $23,906 for the Downstate Suburbs, similarly adjusted, and $23,622 for the Upstate Urban Counties.  The average for the Upstate Rural Counties, at $25,058, was slightly higher.  On instructional (ie. teachers) wages, salaries, and benefits alone, the New York City school district spent $18,229 per student.  That is $364,577 per 20 students, and $218,746 per 12 students.

In FY 2019, the people of New York City and State were being sued for underfunding their schools, and cheating their teachers, out of $billions of additional dollars.

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Census Bureau Education Finances Data: The FY 2018 Data for New York City is Wrong

In the past few years I’ve come across multiple instances when federal data on City of New York expenditures, and only City of New York expenditures, has been incorrect.   Always in a way that make it seem as if those expenditures are lower, public employment per 100,000 people lower, and NYC public workers less well paid than they actually are.  The data affected has been the public employee pension data aggregated by the Census Bureau, population data at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and state and local government earnings data aggregated by the BEA.  At the local level some key information has been eliminated altogether, notably the “full agency cost” table.   I’ve been following the data for decades, and haven’t seen much like it.

Given that I’ve just completed a comprehensive analysis of state and local government finances based largely on the 2017 Census of Governments, I hadn’t planned to re-doing an analysis of education finances for FY 2018. But I decided to check to see if something funky happened to those numbers as well.  It has.  According to data reported to the Census Bureau, the wages and salaries of NYC elementary and secondary school workers were $373 million lower in FY 2018 than they had been in FY 2017, with a reduction of $205.6 million for instructional workers.  I checked around to see if there was something that could explain this. Here is what I found.

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Graphic Summary: 2017 Census of Governments Data

Over the past six weeks, I’ve posted a series of analyses of state and local government finances using data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau, starting with the 2017 Census of Governments and including similar data for prior years.  The posts include well over 200 pages of text, 296-plus charts, 25 tables, 34 spreadsheets with that data, those tables and those charts, plus additional spreadsheets. It is the fifth time I have done this, based on the Census of Governments, which comes out every five years.

Did you read them all?

If not, I will now attempt to summarize what the data said about state and local government in New York City compared with the rest of the country, prior to the cornonavirus crisis, with a series of selected charts and a sentence or two each.  Most of the data is for all the governments in a state or county added together, with revenues and expenditures divided by the personal income of everyone in that state or county, to adjust for the relative cost of living and ability to pay. The first post in the series, which includes spreadsheets with revenue and expenditure data on the full scope of state and local government activities, and explains where the data comes from and how it is tabulated, is here.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2020/04/19/background-and-databases-2017-census-of-governments-finance-data/

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State Government Higher Education Expenditures: 2017 Census of Governments Data

In FY 1977, U.S. state and local government institutions of higher education covered just 20.8% of their expenditures on education with tuition and fees.  That figure peaked at 39.2% in FY 2011, and was 35.0% in FY 2017.   On the other hand, fees and charges at auxiliary enterprises at public colleges and universities, including dormitories, food services, book stores, stadiums, camps and conferences, covered more than 100.0% of their costs more often then not up until FY 2004, interest on debts aside. Such enterprises still covered 92.1% of their costs in FY 2011, but covered just 77.0% of their costs in FY 2017.   And that was before the coronavirus ended the presence of students in on-campus housing, and admission revenues at sporting events.

That is just one of the findings from a tabulation of state and local government finances from the 2017 Census of Governments, along with similar data for prior years.  As noted in the prior post on elementary and secondary schools, local governments also operate community colleges in some states, including New York.  For the most part, however, higher education is a state government function.  While Medicaid, mostly paid to private sector health care providers, and elementary and secondary education, consisting of aid to local government schools, are a larger part of state budgets, public colleges and universities employ more actual state workers than any other government function.  A table, charts and a further discussion about public higher education follow.

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Local Government Education Expenditures: 2017 Census of Governments Data

In FY 1972, when a large number of Baby Boomers were still in school, U.S. elementary and secondary school expenditures equaled 4.59% of U.S. residents’ personal income.  That fell to a low of 3.69% of income in FY 1984, after the Boomers exited and enrollment shrunk.  The figure increased to a non-recession (recessions depress income) high of 4.51% of income in FY 2004, when a large share of the Millennials were in school, before falling to around 3.9% of income each year from FY 2014 to FY 2017, after they exited.

New York State, however, has diverged from the pattern.  In New York City elementary and secondary school expenditures were around 5.0% of personal income each year from FY 2013 to FY 2017, actually higher than the 4.3% of personal income in 2004.  The rest of NY State averaged 6.4% of income in FY 2004, but was only modestly lower at just under 6.0% of personal income from FY 2015 to FY 2017.  New York’s elementary and secondary school expenditures were already high, compared with the rest of the country, in FY 2004, but the gap has increased since – despite an economy that has favored NY State in general, and New York City in particular, increasing the personal income that spending is being divided by.

New York’s public school expenditures are now at an extreme, even as the city and state face recession.  Rising pension and retiree health care expenditures, as a result of a long series of retroactive pension increases for teachers, are one key reason.  A high level of public school employment, despite falling enrollment, with the schools used as a job program and source of dues revenues, is another.

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Public Higher Education: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

The big issue in higher education, or at least the one that has been pushed in the media, is the burden of student loans.  And the explanation for this crisis that has been advanced is the rising cost of college.  According to sources deemed reliable, while tuition has soared in private colleges and universities due to an amenities arms race and a better deal for faculty, in public higher education unwilling taxpayers are to blame.

https://hbr.org/2019/09/what-will-it-take-to-solve-the-student-loan-crisis

The roots of rising college and university costs are not difficult to identify. For the nation’s 1,600-plus public institutions, the chief culprit has been major reductions in state support; public investment in higher education has been in retreat in the states since about 1980, according to the American Council on Education. State funding and subsidies were cut by more than $7 billion between 2008 and 2018. What many call the “privatization of public higher education” has shifted most of the states’ share of instructional costs to students and their families, with disruptive results for both students and institutions.

Here is another “study” saying the same thing.

Click to access RB_512HJRB.pdf

I once believed it, but when whenever I looked at the available Census Bureau data on higher education finances, it didn’t fully support it. With the availability of state and local government employment and payroll data for the 2017 Census of Governments, I took another look.

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Public Elementary and Secondary Schools: Census of Governments Employment and Payroll Data for 2017

The two categories of public expenditures that account for the most money are education and health care, but there is a difference in the way they are managed.  Federal, state and local government expenditures fund perhaps 80 percent of third party (not co-payment) health care expenditures, directly (Medicare, Medicaid, the VA Hospital system) or indirectly (private insurance purchased on behalf of civilian government employees, the tax expenditure subsidy due to the exclusion of health insurance payments from taxable income), if voluntary services such as cosmetic surgery and dentistry are excluded.  But most actual health care services, even services to public employees, are provided by private sector health providers, not by employees of government agencies, with the government merely paying the bill. So state and local government health care expenditures show up more completely in Census of Governments finance data, which will be published at some point in the future, than in Census of Governments employment and payroll data.

Most education services, in contrast, are provided directly by government employees.  As a result elementary and secondary school employees accounted for 55.6% of all local government employment in March 2017, on a full time equivalent basis, and higher education employees accounted for 50.8% of state government employment, for that year and on that basis.  There are also local government higher education employees in many states including New York, mostly in community colleges.   It is elementary and secondary school employment and payroll that is the subject of this post.

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