Census Bureau FY 2009 Education Finance Data
As noted in this post, the U.S. Census Bureau has released elementary and secondary school finance data for fiscal year 2009, along with a PDF report with revenue and expenditure data by category for states and larger school districts. I have tabulated the detailed data in a similar way, and have attached to this post a spreadsheet with data for for New York City, Downstate New York, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the U.S., plus all school districts within New York State. The data includes revenues by source (federal, state and local), and spending by category (instructional vs. non-instructional, wages, benefits and other, interest and debts), all expressed per student. In high-wage high-cost areas – New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, New Jersey and Massachusetts – an adjustment is made for this.
When I first started compiling data from the Governments Division of the U.S. Census Bureau more than 20 years ago, spending on the NYC schools was low, particularly compared with the rest of the New York metropolitan area. Today, however, that is no longer the case. I’ll recount this history, and what has changed for the city from FY 2009 to the current budget proposal, in my next post. But this post will focus on FY 2009, when total spending per student was $22,569 in New York City, $22,357 in the Downstate Suburbs, $18,318 in Upstate New York, and $19,566 in New Jersey. This compares with just $16,406 in Massachusetts and just $12,547 in the U.S. Adjusted for the higher cost of living and general wage level here, New York City’s per student spending at $17,133 was still 36.6% higher than the U.S. average. The Downstate Suburbs were at $16,972, New Jersey at $15,436, and Massachusetts at $12,858 – about the same as the U.S. average once living costs/average wages are adjusted for. New York City’s spending per student, therefore, in addition to being much higher than the U.S. average was also higher than in the Downstate Suburbs or New Jersey. Upstate’s spending was higher still.
My workover of the data, as usual, is as follows. First I downloaded the most detailed data the Bureau provides for every school district in the country. Then I crunched down the number of categories and school districts included to a more manageable size, creating totals for the U.S., the states and parts of New York State by addition. The Downstate Suburbs, as here described, are those New York State counties in the New York Core Based Statistical Area (metro area): Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam. In the table the individual New York State school districts begin with dependent city school districts and then are sorted by FIPS code. Since these tend to be alphabetical, school districts in Albany County are listed first. The spreadsheet has a “window,” “freeze pane” line added to make it easy to pan across the revenue and spending categories and down the list of school districts, while keeping the headings and totals on the screen. A second worksheet contains a one-page summary, set up to print.
For each district, the data I downloaded is to the right while the data as tabulated per student is to the left. To convert to per student expenditures in a reasonable way, I excluded spending on charter schools, adult education, and other non-education expenses, since the data item on the number of students does not include those who benefit. Note that the Charter School payments field includes payment to private charter schools only – charter schools run by the City of New York’s Department of Education are included in the data for the New York City school district. The totals by category in my spreadsheet often match those in the Census Bureau’s PDF report exactly, but also sometimes differ. But I have confirmed that my aggregated totals match the data download from the Bureau.
To adjust for the cost of living, I scaled down revenues and expenditures in New York City, the Downstate Suburbs, New Jersey and Massachusetts based on their average private sector earnings per worker, excluding the Finance and Insurance sector. That sector has a labor market (or economic conspiracy) separate and apart from the rest of us, and does not present a fair comparison – its pay has soared and collapsed in recent years. Earnings per worker in other parts of the private sector in Downstate New York is fairly stable at about 33 percent more than the U.S. average, give or take a few percent. In 2009, according to Local Area Personal Income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, it was 32 percent above average, so revenues and expenditures are scaled down for New York City and the Downstate Suburbs by multiplying by about 0.759. Or course, Finance and Insurance sector pay plunged in New York City in 2009, but the effect on the pay of workers in other sectors was, as usual, limited.
If what you just read and are about to read sounds a lot like last year, you’re right. You can print out the summary worksheet and see the specific numbers yourself, but rather than rehashing those details, I’ll summarize the main points.
New York City’s non-instructional spending per student is, and always has been (even under the old Board of Education), very low by national standards whereas the rest of New York State is and always has been high. It is particularly low in the Census Bureau’s pupil support, instructional support, and general (central) administration categories – a fraction of the U.S. average even without an adjustment for the cost of living, let alone with it. But in FY 2009 New York City’s spending per student was above the U.S. average for pupil transportation and operation and maintenance of plant, even with the cost of living adjustment. The city spent more than average on school buses and custodians even though a higher than average share of NYC students walk to school, and NYC’s bigger than average school buildings should benefit from custodial economies of scale.
In contrast with the past, however, New York City’s instructional spending per student is now very high. With adjustment, New York City spent $11,019 per student on instruction in FY 2009, 73.1% more than the U.S. average of $6,336, and more than the similarly adjusted totals for the Downstate Suburbs at $10,282, New Jersey at $7,892, and Massachusetts at $7,289. The Upstate New York total was $10,008, also lower than the adjusted figure for New York City. The unadjusted figure for New York City $14,515.
Note that New Jersey’s instructional spending was lower than in New York City or the Downstate Suburbs in large part because that state has not been funding its teacher pension plan, which is now so depleted that it is in crisis. As noted previously, however, at least two actuarial independent assessments have found that New York City’s teacher pension fund is just as depleted as New Jersey’s, although the plan for the rest of the state is better off.
New York City’s teacher pension is also in trouble, but not because city taxpayers have underfunded its instructional employee benefits. In fact, the city’s spending in this category has always been unusually high. In FY 2009, adjusted spending in this category totaled $3,319 per student for New York City, more than double the $1,292 in the U.S., and also more than the $2,522 (adjusted) in the Downstate Suburbs, $2,730 in Upstate New York, $1,162 (adjusted) in Massachusetts, and $1,199 in New Jersey.
As FY 2009, NYC’s instructional wages salaries per student are also relatively high, at an adjusted $6,523 per student compared with the U.S. average of just $4,331. That’s more than 50.6% above average, even after an adjustment for the higher cost of living here. In this category the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate New York were higher still at $7,191 (adjusted) and $6,687 per student, while New Jersey and Massachusetts were lower at $5,498 and $7,289 adjusted.
As for other instructional spending, on things like books and teaching supplies (and perhaps some consulting contracts?), New York City was above average in FY 2009 after adjustment; the city had been far below average in the past. Spending in the Downstate Suburbs and Upstate New York were below the U.S. average in FY 2009.
So on a per student basis New York City is now spending a lot more than most places on schools, particularly on instructional personnel such as teachers, particularly on benefits – though wages and salaries and other instructional spending are now also high as well. Really high compared with anyplace other than the rest of New York State, in fact. Even compared with nearby New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Yet I haven’t read much about those working in the New York City schools feeling happy about it, or feeling any obligation to provide more in return, at least based on their official representatives. Nor do I read the various “education advocates” say that the city is getting much better than average schools, in exchange for much higher than average spending. What I read is that the schools are as bad as ever, but the city’s children deserve bad schools because not much should be expected of those who work there in exchange for the much resented compensation they receive. If you don’t believe me, just read some of the comments on the UFT’s Edwize site or Gothamschools.org. We’re paying much more, property and sales tax rates are higher, and other public services have been disproportionately cut to pay for it. But it has made no difference, it is claimed, according to anyone other than Mayor Bloomberg. Even Joel Klein seemed to admit as much, in his essay in The Atlantic.
To be honest I don’t agree that the schools are no better. Though I do agree that they will likely be no better when certain costs from the past actually start being paid for.
Now I always say, with regard to comparative spending figures, that just because it’s the national average doesn’t make it right, but large differences in either direction need to be explained and justified. So let’s look at New York City’s unadjusted figures in other ways to try to make sense of them.
New York City’s spending at $22,569 per student is double what Catholic High Schools charge for full tuition, and quadruple the full cost of Catholic elementary schools. Now that comparison can be dismissed on several bases. Catholic schools do not serve the severely handicapped, who are more expensive to educate. Half of the work of education is generally done by parents, not schools, and teaching is much easier in schools where parents do their share, such as in the Catholic schools, than in schools where they cannot or do not, as in many NYC public schools. And Catholic school teachers are underpaid, with the Catholic school system shrinking as much due to an insufficient number of qualified teachers willing to work there as due an insufficient number of parents who can pay twice for education – in taxes and tuition.
But consider this – New York City’s $22,569 per student equates to $451,380 per 20 students and $270,828 per 12 students. Even leaving aside the cost of the buildings, administration and support, and including instructional expenditures only, brings the total to $270,900 per 20 students and $162,540 per 12 students. Yet most New York City schools do not have classes of 12 or 20 students, and the paychecks of New York City teachers do not approach $270,900 or even $162,540.
The way that money is used is, in large part, irrevocably determined by the power of the United Federation of Teachers. A large and ever growing share of it goes to teachers who are retired, with one or more years paid in retirement for each year worked, on sick leave, or on break. It is the state legislature that voted to make the pensions teachers receive, already more generous than other workers, even more costly. Other costs are determined by the power of the health care industry, which grows ever larger by charging ever more for more and more services every year.
Can anyone think of a way to use that amount of instructional money -- $270,900 per 20 students and $162,540 per 12 students – in a better way, one that would make teachers more motivated and less resentful than they are today? My guess is that if the slate were clean, the answer is yes.
There is some information that I believe people should have that I also believe the New York State United Teachers, United Federation of Teachers, New York State Association of School Boards and the politicians they control in Albany would never allow. A simple statement, given to each teacher, and sent to each parent and property taxpayer in the state, with the simple facts shown by Census Bureau data. Imagine the reaction of everyone in New York City received this:
Dear New York City Teacher, Parent and/or Taxpayer,
In the most recent year for which comparable data is available, which is fiscal 2009, New York City’s public school spending per student was $22,569, which is $451,380 per 20 students. The national average was $12,457 per student, but for a fair comparison with this average given the higher cost of living and average wage level here, New York City’s spending may be adjusted to $17,133 per student. From that year to today, New York City’s spending per student has increased X percent.
Looking just at the wages, salaries and benefits for instructional workers, mostly teachers, New York City spent $12,965 per student in fiscal 2009, which is $259,300 per 20 students. The national average was $5,623 per student, but for a comparison adjusted for the cost of living and average wages, New York City’s figure may be reduced to $9,842 per student.
The New York State Education Department
Now imagine similar letters going out to Rockville Center and Chappaqua. And in low cost Upstate New York, with no adjustment for the relatively low wage levels required, to Clifton Park and Brighton and Manlius and Binghamton.
What would happen when the parents saw it? What would happen when property tax payers saw it? What would happen when the teachers saw it? Especially, if it came attached to their paycheck. What does it mean to be in a position where the only reason people aren’t outraged at you is because they don’t know what’s going on?
I can hear the bogus objections now. What a waste of money when the city is closing firehouses and senior centers! Well guess what, I get several pieces of mail about my property taxes from the city’s Department of Finance every year. I get an annual report from the Department of Environmental Protection on the quality of my water. And I get at least a couple of pieces of mail from my child’s school during the year, although the school system has been switching to e-mail in general. And I get mailings from my City Council member, State Senator and State Assemblymember.
I’ll make one more comparison, based on the March 2009 public employment data published here. New York City had 121,459 full time equivalent instructional elementary and secondary education employees that year. With 981,690 students in fall 2008 according to the education finance dataset, that is one instructional worker for every 8.1 students. The city’s total spending on instructional workers was $8,435,509,000 for wages and salaries and $4,292,082,000 for benefits. Per instructional worker, that’s $69,451 for wages and salaries, and $35,311 for benefits, for a total of $104,762. That isn’t a lot compared with Wall Street, but it’s quite a bit compared with most other people working in the NY metro area (let alone the U.S.), particularly adjusted for the number of days worked. Of course for most private sector workers a much larger share of the total is in wages and salaries rather than benefits.
So here we are. In a future post I’ll look at the long sad story of where we were, how we got here, and how things have changed from FY 2009 to today.
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