Tag Archives: campaign for fiscal equity

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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New York’s Sky-High Public School Spending

It doesn’t even get much of a mention in the NYC press anymore, but the education finance data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and released each year shows that New York State’s public school spending per student is sky high, one of the biggest reasons why New York has the highest state and local tax burden on residents and most businesses in the U.S. The Bureau’s report mostly includes data at the state level, but it releases far more detailed data in spreadsheets. In my compilation of the detailed data for FY 2012, FY 2002, and FY 1992 (which includes data for every school district in New York and New Jersey, and which you can find here),

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/census-of-governments-public-school-finance-data-fy-2012-2002-and-1992/

I show that New York State’s public school spending is sky high even when it is marked down in Downstate New York to adjust for the higher average private sector wage and cost of living here. It is sky high not only compared with the U.S. average and states like California, North Carolina and Colorado (let alone Tennessee and Oklahoma), but also compared with adjacent Northeastern states such as New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, states reputed to have good schools. And it is sky high not only in the Downstate Suburbs, but also in Upstate New York and, in a change from the past, New York City.

Public school spending has soared in New York City, coming off the lows when the city’s schools were underfunded in part because the state aid formula discriminated against its children. The current level of spending seems almost unimaginable for those who have followed the data in the past and still do so today. Just on instructional (mostly teachers) wages, salaries, and benefits, in FY 2012 New York City spent $13,627 per student – or $272,536 per 20 students – even though for most of the city’s children class sizes were far higher. And in reality the cost of the city’s teachers was even higher, because the city was underfunding its teacher pension plan, which is deep in the hole as a result of all of the retroactive pension increases over the years, and deferring costs to the future. Despite that sky-high level of spending, however, for a substantial minority of teachers egged on by the United Federation of Teachers (and thanks the way the union has maneuvered to have it distributed), all it bought was an attitude of resentment at how little they were paid. In the late 1990s, when spending levels were far, far lower, the courts had found (in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit) that the city’s schools were so bad they violated the state constitution. But in the most recent Mayoral campaign, despite this massive increase in spending every candidate but one asserted that the city’s schools were no better than they were in the 1990s. Spending has soared with nothing in return, and this is so out of hand as to represent a social injustice. We’ve been robbed. A series of charts and commentary of public school finance over the years may be found below.

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