Category Archives: education

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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Schools Are Obsolete: IT and the UFT Have Convinced Me

There is, or at least was until recently, an idea out there in America that every child deserves a great teacher. But that isn’t possible, because not every worker is great. According to FY 2012 Census Bureau data, U.S. public schools had a total 4,659,517 full time equivalent instructional employees for 48,212,483 students, a ratio of 10.3 to one. There may not be 4.7 million “great” workers in the entire country, depending on how strictly one defines greatness, let alone that many available just for public education. So you’ll have some great teachers, some good teachers, some average teachers, and some below average teachers. And thanks to low pay in some areas of the U.S., and union power in other areas, lots of bad teachers the schools can’t get rid of.

There is a way, however, that every child could have access to great teachers. Over the internet. Just as information technology allows the best entertainers and game designers to serve millions of people at a time at a very low incremental per-person cost, so that same technology could allow millions of children access to the best instruction, exercises and practice, homework and tests. In a format that was available on demand at any time. With different teaching styles that might work for different students. And the possibility of each child working at their own pace, rather than being held back by or trying to keep up with the average for a class, and with lots of extra practice for skills they and yet to master. All that would be missing is the possibility of a trained teacher working with an individual child on something they were having trouble with. But that is something the public education doesn’t provide either – despite that student to instructional employee ratio of 10.3 to 1.

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