Census Bureau FY 2010 Education Finance Data
I understand that there is a group called StudentsFirstNY, organized by the affluent to do battle with the teacher’s union over “school reform.” As the battle rages, however, I can’t help but think the whole thing is nothing but a distraction – from the fact that retroactive pension enhancements and pension underfunding, leading to a huge shift in available taxpayer funds to the retired, have doomed the public school system for a generation, despite much higher spending than in the past. Particularly in New York City, where the cost of retroactive pension enhancements is wrecking the schools for a second time, just as they were starting to recover from the first time. So if StudentsFirstNY really wants to wake people up, it should use its resources to send every parent, teacher and taxpayer a postcard with the following information.
In Fiscal FY 2010, according to data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, New York City spent $23,472 per student on public schools, compared with an average of $22,861 in the Downstate New York Suburbs, $18,546 for New Jersey, and $12,502 for the U.S. as a whole. Adjusting the New York figures downward for higher average non-Wall Street private sector wage here, the NYC total is $17,647 per student, still 41.2% higher than the U.S. average. New York City non-instructional spending is and always has been low compared with the US. average and other parts of the state. Spending on instructional (teacher) wages and benefits (including retirement benefits) totaled $13,469 per student in NYC in FY 2010, or $269,380 per 20 students, or $161,628 per 12 students. Adjusting the NYC figure down for the higher average wage here, you get $10,126 per student spent on teacher wages and benefits in NYC, or more than 77% higher than the U.S. average of $5,703. The NYC figure for teacher wages and benefits was also higher than the average for the Downstate Suburbs, although a higher share of the suburban teacher dollars went to wages, and not to pensions and other benefits.
The Census Bureau’s public education finance data came out a little late this year, but I have done the same tabulations with it as in past years. I have placed three spreadsheets here. Follow the link, and download. Having people look at the spreadsheets is the whole point of this post.
The first spreadsheet has revenue and expenditure data, by category, for FY 2010 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.
The second spreadsheet has the same data for NYC, the Downstate Suburbs, Upstate NY, New Jersey and the U.S. for FY 2010 and FY 1996, with the latter adjusted into 2010 dollars using the Consumer Price Index.
The third spreadsheet shows the Bureau of Economic Analysis data used to create the cost of living adjustment. The adjustment is based on the difference between average private sector earnings per worker in Downstate New York and elsewhere, minus the overpaid Finance and Insurance Sector, compared with the U.S. average. Downstate New York workers continued to earn about 33% more than average in 2010, a figure that changes little from year to year.
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.
The second worksheet, for FY 1996 and FY 2010, is set up to print, I hope. FY 1996 was a low year for school spending in New York City compared with other places. I chose it for comparison because I already had it in there. A couple of years from now I’ll compare current data the start of the recession or the start of the Bloomberg Administration. But FY 2010 was a transitional year, with the federal stimulus package limiting school, cuts and the huge increase in pension spending that has long been required still not admitted to.
In the spreadsheet with data 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.
Just to hit the highlights: school spending is extremely high throughout New York State. In New York City, however, what stands out is high teacher benefit spending, in particular rich benefits for the retired. By using their power to divert NYC’s high school spending to those who do not work, the United Federation of Teachers has achieved high spending on their members and high taxes for city residents, all while claiming that they have no obligation to provide good schools because they are underpaid. New York City’s non-instructional spending per student is, and always has been, very low by national standards, with two exceptions. The private school bus companies, a monopoly that controls politicians in both the City Council and State Legislature, and operation and maintenance of plant, which is to say the school custodians and related building maintenance and operations. Elsewhere in New York State, in contrast, non-instructional spending is sky high across the board.
In contrast with the past, however, New York City’s school spending per student, and in particular its instructional spending per student, is now much higher than the average for the Downstate Suburbs and New Jersey. Teacher cash pay is higher in the suburbs, because more of the city’s teacher money goes to the retired. In fact, the retired have captured a large share of the increase in NYC school spending in recent years, particularly after FY 2002. NYC teachers received retroactive pension enhancements in 1995, 2000, and 2008 – that’s just the big ones I know about. These were described as costing nothing, a fact that makes them far more devastating today as the pension fund falls deeper in the hole.
Thanks to the UFT contract and irrevocability of past pension deals, Mayoral Control is a joke. The way the city’s money is used is, in large part, irrevocably determined by past deals. 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.
I wrote something like 20 pages on this issue in multiple posts last year, and similar volumes of text about the data in past years. I covered the whole history of public school finance in New York City more than once, and the FY 2010 data adds little to the story. If you didn’t read it already, perhaps because you were distracted by the Anthony Weiner sex scandal, you can read my magnum opus from last year in this post, followed by this one, this one, and this one.
There is nothing more to say – except that it’s going to get worse for years before it gets better. The UFT has grabbed back one year in retirement for each year worked, the cost of which will send the schools back to the 1970s. Mayor Bloomberg wants to defer costs and catastrophe until he is out of office, but that will just make the hole bigger. Lindsay did that too. And when it gets better, who is to say that the result won’t be retirement at age 50, or a three-quarters pension at 55 rather than half pay?
The city’s schools have been inferior for 45 years. One excuse after another has been given, with the latest one being underpaid teachers and not enough money. Then they took all the money and provided nothing in return. It’s time to accept that the UFT will never allow a decent education system in New York City, and just pursue alternatives. I described the future of the city’s schools in this post soon after the 25/55 deal passed in 2008, and much of what I described is slowly starting to occur.
The Mayor can close schools and open them, fight over teacher evaluations, and slash the wages and benefits of new hires as much as he wants. The UFT contract means that although most teachers try to do their best, they really don’t have to do anything. Battling with the union just causes the “volunteers” or “scabs” who actually care to stop volunteering to actually teach. Lower pay and benefits for future hires, in addition to cutting the quality of recruits, just means that those who got a super-rich pension in a series of political deals will just feel justified in doing less work, since “teachers are underpaid.” As long as Mayors continue to play along as if there is hope for the schools, they’ll just end up taking the blame for something that is hopeless. The cost of the retroactive 25/55 pension deal has and will continue to defund the classroom despite high NYC taxes, making the whole school reform issue moot.
In the meantime, what should StudentsFirstNY and similar groups do? Take the data in the spreadsheets, make the post cards, and send them out as I have described. Perhaps all over New York State, substituting in the data for the relevant school district. Go ahead. I dare you. Let parents, younger teachers, and other ask what they could do with a similar amount of money. Let taxpayers ask if they are getting a decent return.
The question for everyone else, particularly for young couples, is can they stay in New York City given the future of the schools? Where else can they go? What else can they do? I’ll address that in a future post.
Post new comment