Late last year I downloaded and arranged all the data the U.S. Census Bureau had collected since 1957 on currently active public employee pension plans in New York and New Jersey. I used the data in a series of posts: one on the teacher pension plans, one on police and fire pension plans, and one on the pension plans for everyone else. To say the posts are popular is an understatement. Since I started “Saying the Unsaid in New York,” last year’s post on teacher pensions has the most views, with the police and fire pension post second and the general pension post fifth. Even during the last 90 days, long after the posts were written (and a period when I put up three series of other posts based on three other databases I compiled), the old teacher and police/fire pension posts have been first and third in views.
The Census Bureau has now updated his information for FY 2012 (and for the NYC police pension plan, which lags, for FY 2011), and I have added the new information to the spreadsheets with the charts. Not much changed between FY 2011 and FY 2012, though I have added a few additional charts to better show what I already showed last year. So the reader may find much of what will follow duplicative. What is worthy of additional comment, however, is the political reaction to the public employee pension disaster over the past few months. The updated charts and commentary for teachers may be found on “Saying the Unsaid in New York.”
As discussed in this post the latest education finance data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that New York’s public school spending per student is sky-high, not only in the suburbs but in Upstate New York and even New York City, even adjusted downward downstate for the higher cost of living here, and even compared with adjacent Northeastern states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Although you’d never know it by all the propaganda being put out, primarily by the teachers’ union, claiming that New York’s taxpayers and children deserve less because we aren’t paying enough.
To put New York’s spending in even greater perspective, how about a comparison with a state where public school spending in general, and spending on teachers in particular, really is low? Let’s compare New York with right-wing, low-tax Oklahoma. A few charts and commentary may be found on “Saying the Unsaid In New York.”
It’s happening, just as I predicted in this post after the 25/55 pension deal passed for New York City teachers. The New York Times reports that desperate middle class parents are responding to the financial degradation of the public schools by forming underground education co-ops. Providing for themselves, outside the formal structure and at risk of persecution from it, the education they pay taxes for after those taxes were diverted to the early retired. According to the article, the underground is in pre-K, which was supposed to become “universal” but never has been. “For parents like us, options are limited. Private pre-K can run more than $30,000 a year at the fanciest schools. Depending on the neighborhood, spaces with community-based organizations — private preschools that partner with the state and accept state subsidies but handle their own applications — can be as elusive as public pre-K spots. If home schooling is daunting, and if not schooling feels wrong, the only other choice, it seems, is to join the legions of parents who have taken matters into their own hands and formed co-ops.”
Today pre-K, tomorrow grade school and more. Not because it is better or even good, not because teachers aren’t needed or wanted, but because that is what will be left in the aftermath of Generation Greed. With the benefit of information technology and unemployed would-be teachers with no choice but to help out and work for peanuts, it might work for children with educated parents. For the rest, forget it, and kiss equal opportunity goodbye.
It has been a heck of a couple of weeks. Between spam and all the Weiner traffic, I’m aware that some of those who wanted to read my series of posts on the latest elementary and secondary school finance data — and more important download the spreadsheets and print out the tables — may not have been able to do so. So I am attaching what I had written in an MS-Word document, along with the spreadsheets, to this post. The Word document may differ from what was finally posted, because I always find an extra typo or two right at the end. I’m not sure how the other writers on this site do it…at work all my reports have the benefit of an editor.
The counter implies that I wrote about 11,000 words on comparative public school finance, addition to compiling the spreadsheets. There are probably those who think I’m more of a dweeb for that I do online than Anthony Weiner is for what he did online, particularly since I’m doing it on my own time. For those who read the four posts, downloaded the spreadsheets, and printed them, out congratulations – you now know at least as much about the subject as I do. To complete your education, and your dataset, you might want to read this post and download the spreadsheet with Census Bureau education finance data (from another data source) from FY 1972 to FY 2008 as a percentage of personal income.
Recently, the press was full of the sort of tribal issue that political types love to participate in and the media loves to report on. It seems that a playwright, who did not attend CUNY, was proposed to be granted an honorary degree by that institution, which perhaps wanted to highlight the excellent achievements of alumni of New York University and Columbia. But the proposed honorary degree was objected to and, I believe, not granted based on something the playwright may have said about Israel. Much outrage was engendered on all sides, and the real issue for SUNY and CUNY was safely ignored. That issue is as follows.
As noted in my previous post on education finance, in FY 1996, total public school expenditure per student – with a cost of living adjustment for NYC – was 1.4% above the U.S. average in FY 1996, and 36.5% above the U.S. average in FY 2009. As we face ongoing cuts to the actual education provided by the New York City schools, this huge increase in the city’s relative spending has changed my understanding of what the cause of decreased educational quality is — underfunding compared with being cheated of fair value.
But most of those discussing education finance policy are either funded or supported by those with a self-interest in taking more for themselves, or tribally aligned with one position or another and unwilling to consider facts contrary to their world view. Thus, according to many people who have commented on my internet comments, posts or reports over the years, what has actually changed is that I have gone from someone in the pocket of the United Federation of Teachers who hates the suburbs and Upstate New York, to someone in the pocket of corporate interests who hates teachers and wants them to eat cat food when they get old. But while facts may interest only me, I’ve done the spreadsheets so I might as well discuss what they say.
In this post from last year, I provided a historical overview of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, and referenced some long-term data without providing it in spreadsheets or describing it in detail. Then I provided data for FY 2002 to FY 2008, the latest available at the time, to examine what had changed during the Bloomberg/Mayoral Control era. To change things up, this time I’ll provide the long term data and describe it, and compare the FY 2009 revenue and expenditures per student data in my previous post with the same data for FY 1996. Finally, I’ll use NYC budget documents to compare FY 2009 to the present and the budget proposal for FY 2012.
What emerges in the data is the following story.
Yes it’s a budget that would cut projected spending on major issues like education and health care.
But isn’t it a bit refreshing to have a governor that is at least trying to finally tackle the problem rather than simply punt it to the future with lip service, or turn to the tax and spend policies of the past.