Tag Archives: united federation of teachers

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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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 School Finance Over Two Decades, in NYC And Elsewhere, Based on Census Bureau Data: Anyone Remember “School Reform”?

Remember school reform?  The idea that funding for public schools, in New York City and across the country, would be increased, and in return the kind of education those schools were expected to provide would rise as well, even for poor and disadvantaged students.  “No child left behind.”  Republicans such as George W. Bush were in favor, but so were Democrats such as Teddy Kennedy and Barack Obama.  But nobody talks about it anymore, and for good reason.  In New York City, and some places like it, the schools – and the teachers union — grabbed vastly more money, but once that was locked in they rejected any increased expectations, or any expectations at all, and have since demanded still more money.  In some other states anti-tax politicians reversed higher school funding, though not completely, and left the quality of education lower than it had been decades ago.

Nationwide the reversal was driven by three trends.  Since FY 2007, with the children of the Baby Boomers (aka the Millennials) exiting school, public school enrollment has been falling in many places, and barely increasing nationwide.  So the only generation that matters, the Baby Boomers, wants money and attention shifted to other things — even as the schools and the politicians they support, in places like Upstate NY, want more money funneled through the increasingly empty schools as a jobs and retirement program.  Throughout their adulthood, this generation either failed to fund the pensions teachers had been promised, or retroactively increased those pensions to benefit the generations cashing in and moving out – themselves.  As a result much of the increase in school funding per student that did occur actually went to retired school employees, rather than to the classroom. All this came to a head with the Great Recession, followed by a perpetual fiscal crisis across the country.  One associated with falling tax burdens in some places, but rising tax burdens in New York. School reform is over across the country, but in New York City it was probably a fraud to start with.

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New York School Spending: Entitlement Feeds More Entitlement And It’s Never Enough

Over the past 25 years some types of Americans have become richer and richer, at the expense of others who have become poorer and poorer – to the point where average life expectancy is starting to fall.  One might have imagined that at some point those who have been taking more and more would conclude that enough is enough, feel obligated to do more in return, and become concerned about the circumstances of others who are less well off.  But that doesn’t seem to happen.  Not among the richest generations in U.S. history, those born from 1930 to 1957, who continue to be completely focused on increasing their own share of the take.  Not among the richest people, the top executives who sit on each other’s boards and vote each other higher and higher pay.  And who anointed themselves “the makers” and everyone else “the takers” within two years of having been bailed out by the federal government, even as “the takers” saw their standard of living plunge, and then demanded another round of tax cuts that mostly benefit themselves.

And not among New York’s unionized public employees, particularly those working in its public schools, who have become the most politically powerful – and selfish – of all self-interest groups at the state and local level here.  Power and selfishness seem to go together in part because no one dares to offend the powerful, by pointing out how much they have taken relative to everyone else, and the connection between others having less and them taking more. So they can continue to feel aggrieved, entitled, resentful, unobligated – and somehow demand even more without embarrassment.  There seems to be no end to it.  This post uses Census Bureau data to show how far it had gone, as of three years ago.

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Census Bureau Public School Finance Data: FY 1996 vs. FY 2016 for New York City, Other School Districts in NY State, and Other Areas

The Census Bureau slipped its data on public school finance out in late May.

https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html

There was no press release or PDF report, but if you click on 2016 tables at the top and then “Summary Tables,” you can find all the spreadsheets the Bureau previously released in PDF format.   Including, crucially, Table 12 (tabs on the bottom), which ranks states according to their school revenues and expenditures per $1,000 of state residents’ personal income (which adjusts for the state average cost of living and average age and the ability of state taxpayers to pay).  And Table 18, which provides per pupil revenues and expenditures for the 100 largest school districts, including the most expensive by a mile, New York City.  As in the past, I’ve downloaded and compiled more detailed data for every school district in New York State and New Jersey, the U.S. average, the averages for selected other states, and selected school districts elsewhere.  And tabulated revenues and expenditures per student by category for FY 2016 and FY 1996 — with an adjustment for the higher average wage in the high-cost of living Northeast Corridor.

I’ve been holding onto the data for a month, re-downloading and checking it against other sources, because New York City’s expenditures and staffing levels had become so extreme that I can hardly believe it.   Especially since it would be much higher today, in FY 2019.  And because Mayor Bill DeBlasio, candidate for Governor Cynthia Nixon, and a lawsuit from a group backed by the United Federation of Teachers claim that New York City school funding is inadequate, with the schools “cheated out of $billions.” How high was it?  Take a look.

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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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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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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