Tag Archives: new york city teacher’s retirement system

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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Census Bureau Pension Data for 2014 and 2015: Not Usable Thanks to NYC

The U.S. Census Bureau has released its “individual unit” state and local government pension fund data for FY 2014 and FY 2015, and based on past practice I probably would have used it to update my databases, produce a bunch of charts, and write a post or two. But comparing these years with the years preceding, it seems that the data has been trashed. This is something I feared after union-backed Comptroller Stringer’s election, reformed sinner actuary Robert North’s departure, and the imposition of somewhat stricter reporting requirements by the Government Accounting Standards Board, which show more clearly just how underfunded public employee pension funds are.

The new problem is in the Census Bureau data for the NYC Teachers Retirement System, joining the problem I had already found in data for the NYC police retirement system. I learned in government to never assume a conspiracy when a foul up is an equally credible explanation. Whatever the cause, however, if a fix is to be made the Census Bureau nonetheless will not be updating the 2014 and 2015 public employee data until the 2016 data is released next year. So I’ll probably wait to write about NY and NJ public employee pensions again until then.

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Census Bureau Education Finance Data FY 2013

Imagine the following on a postcard sent to every taxpayer and public school employee in Syracuse, NY: “In FY 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Syracuse City School District spent $20,882 per student. That was higher than the Upstate NY average of $19,116 per student, and the average for Vermont at $19,482 per student, and far higher than the U.S. average of $12,300 per student, the Pennsylvania average of $17,184 per student, or the Ohio average of $13,008 per student. The average private sector worker in Ohio and Pennsylvania earns about the same as the average private sector worker in Upstate NY. On instructional wages and salaries and benefits alone, the Syracuse City School District spent $10,946 per student, which is $218,912 per 20 students or $131,347 per 12 students.”

Imagine the following on a postcard sent to every taxpayer and public school employee in the Northport-E. Northport Unified School District. “In FY 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Northport-E. Northport Unified School District spent $24,649 per student. That was higher than the Downstate NY average of $23,549 per student, and far higher than the average of $19,121 for New Jersey, $18,312 for Connecticut, or $16,549 for Massachusetts. These are all high wage, education-oriented states on the Northeast Corridor. On instructional wages and salaries and benefits alone, the Northport-E. Northport Unified School District spent $15,222 per student, which is $304,442 per 20 students or $182,665 per 12 students. Downstate NY is a relatively high-wage area, but even adjusting Northport-E. Northport per student spending for this factor down to $20,283 per student, it is still vastly higher than the U.S. average of $12,300 per student. ”

Imagine similar postcards being sent to taxpayers and public school employees in every part of New York State. Where would the sender get the data? Perhaps from the spreadsheets linked below. Continue reading