The money pit

New York City must spend $5.6 billion more annually on schools to provide the sound, basic education guaranteed by the state constitution, a court-appointed panel has concluded. The city also will need to spend an additional $9.2 billion on schools and facilities. A state judge will decide whether to accept the recommendations.

That’s a lot of dough, says Education Gadfly. It’s nearly as much as the state spends on all the school districts in the state combind.

The court managed to ignore a mound of evidence that there is no connection between increased funding and student performance and, no surprise, the unions are already pushing to extend the ruling to school districts “like Buffalo, Binghamton, and Beacon,” as the NEA/New York’s press release melodiously put it. Expect additional lawsuits. The best we can say about this farce is that perhaps we have here what anthropologists call a natural experiment. If New York goes on a spending spree for class size reductions, ill-designed pre-K, and all sorts of new consultants, as Chancellor Klein has already suggested he will do, without addressing any of the fundamental curricular, contractual, pedagogical, or structural problems facing city schools, and test scores still do not improve, then perhaps we’ll be a step closer to putting the “spending adequacy” genie back into its bottle. Unfortunately, in the meantime, it’s truly shameful that New York’s ill-served school children will be forced to endure more — and boy, do we mean more — of the same.

The Daily News is skeptical too.

The panel’s main message: Show us the money. Boatloads of money. As for reform, “That’s not our department,” the panel seemed to say. When asked back in September to end teacher tenure and to abolish the rules that make it excruciatingly difficult to transfer teachers to schools that need them, one panelist termed the idea “micromanaging.”

How stunningly ironic, then, that the day before the panel issued its obscenely generous recommendations, a legal-reform group called Common Good released a study detailing how it takes 83 separate steps to fire a subpar teacher. Just to place a note in a teacher’s personnel file, a principal must clear 32 administrative hurdles. Replacing a school’s heating system is a 99-step process.

Chancellor Joel Klein wants to use the money to create full-day pre-kindergarten programs and reduce class size.

Update: In a NY Times op-ed, Philip K. Howard of Common Good calls legalism run amok the key problem facing New York schools, and warns of throwing good money after bad.

Law is brilliantly ill suited as a management system. Law is rigid and leaves no room to adjust for the circumstances. Once the idea of rule-based management takes root, the bureaucracy grows like kudzu. Teachers and principals spend the day tied up in legal knots. One principal weighed the legal dictates he received one year from the superintendent’s office at over 45 pounds.

The teachers union contract in New York bans principals from asking teachers to help out in the halls or lunchroom. For teachers, rules dictate “the arrangement of desks, the format of bulletin boards, the position in which teachers should stand.” More money won’t rescue a ship sinking under the weight of bureaucracy, Howard writes.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Mike in Texas says:

    Looks like New York has been right up there with Texas in trying to buy a Lexus for the price ofa Yugo.

    For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Texas readily admitted in court it was only spending 55% of the money needed in education for the goals it requires of schools. A Texas judge ruled the state’s actions unconstitutional and ordered the state to get its act together.

    Of course, much like what’s going on in New York, the Republicans have attacked the judge’s ruling as being unfair and are appealing.

    Here’s a nice little quote from what Joanne posted,

    If New York goes on a spending spree for class size reductions

    What?? Spend money on something that has been proven to work instead of lining the pockets of publishing companies????

  2. Steve LaBonne says:

    You’ve got it bass-ackwards, Mike. A lot of the big urban districts in Northern states with powerful unions (as well as Washington DC) are actually buying a Yugo for the price of a Lexus. The balance goes for waste and inefficiency (piles of useless central-office administrators, ridiculous union contracts like the one the janitors have in NYC) and outright corruption.

  3. Independent George says:

    Exactly when has class-size reductions been proven to work? I’m admittedly no expert on the subject, but most of the literature I’ve seen has shown that, in isolation, the effects are pretty marginal. Simply reducing class size – as in, hiring more teachers – without regard for the quality of the curriculum or the new teachers is extremely unlikely to lead to any improvement. Hiring more people to teach a bad curriculum is not especially useful.

    Put another way, the biggest problem right now is incredibly low productivity in poor neighborhoods. Throwing additional labor into an industry with already low productivity only exacerbates the problem.

  4. OK, about time to put an end to your misrepresentation of the Texas ed scene, Mike.

    First off, the funding scheme is known as “Robin Hood” to give it a bit of that romantic flair that goes along with the other conceits of the left.

    Back in 1984 a poor school district filed a lawsuit so they could get more money out of, well, anyone who had more money then the relatively poor locals. They cast covetous eyes on the rich districts and got a judge to agree that, yes, it’s just terrible that some people are richer then others. The judge decided to change the law in Texas and did, presaging the immortal words of Paul Begala, “stroke of the pen, law of the land. Kinda cool” the judge decided to impose his moral imperitives on the entire state.

    The Texas Supreme court upheld and then the Texas legislature belatedly passed some legislation to make it look like they had something to do with governing the state.

    As anyone with a lick of sense would have predicted, egalitarianism in Texas education would be about as much of a disaster as egalitarianism everywhere else has proven to be.

    The state-wide funding level decided upon by the various palladins was substantially above what the poorer districts were spending.

    No problemo.

    Just take the money from the rich districts and give it to the poor districts.

    Big problemo.

    Even by taking the property taxes to the max allowed by Texas law, particularly punishing on…wait for it….the poor, Texas could only hit 55% of what had been decided was necessary by the various “stakeholders”.

    What the judge ruled was unconstitutional was the mandated maxing out of Texas property taxes as a result of “Robin Hood”. He said that amounted to a state property tax, something that is specifically prohibited by the Texas constitution.

    What this whole dustup neatly ignores is that funding and education are unrelated. Poor districts regularly beat the pants off of rich districts, educationally, and rich districts regularly end up in the basement, educationally.

    Of course, if what you’re really interested in is funding, and not in education, you want to keep the focus on funding and away from education. Otherwise taxpayers and parents might start to notice that what you pay for you don’t necessarily get.

  5. Why is it an improvement to give an incompetent teacher 20 kids to misteach rather than 40, when the extra teachers that have to be hired are no more competent?

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    Actually, there is plenty of research to show that once class size is lowered to 15 kids per classroom teacher you get significant improvement. Of course, you get politicans setting laws with a number that sounds good, say 22 to 1 as it is here in Texas that claim they’ve done something about class sizes while they have not done enough.

    Allen, the property tax situation is a little more complicated in Texas than you described. The districts you described were districts where the property valuation (I’m not sure if that is the correct term) were much lower than the so called property rich districts. You get much more money taxing an oil refinery than you do a ghetto. However, the state constitution requires the state govt. to provide for an adequate education for all Texas students, not just the rich ones.

    Robin Hood was a bad idea, basically a punishment for being successful, but without it many school districts in Texas would’ve gone bankrupt. Now the state will be required to pay what it should’ve been paying all along.

    Poor districts regularly beat the pants off of rich districts, educationally, and rich districts regularly end up in the basement, educationally.

    IF this were true, and you didn’t post any links to research that shows it is, I think its more of an issue to what Steve LaBonne said, many school districts spend huge amounts of money on luxury items. In Texas its football stadiums, gyms and administrators and administration buildings.

    What this whole dustup neatly ignores is that funding and education are unrelated.

    This is only true because politicians make the rules, not the educators (you can read that teachers, not educrats). Put the money directly into the hands of the teachers and there would be a whole lot less palatial football stadiums, chartered buses for sports teams, and newly renovated administration buildings and more money going directly to help students. There would also be a whole lot fewer overcrowded classrooms and overcrowded schools.

  7. Back to NYC, it was my understanding that funding for NYC schools was in the same league as DC.

  8. John from OK says:

    Mike,
    “Put the money directly into the hands of the teachers…” and all of that money will go directly into the salaries and pensions of teachers, good and bad. That’s why we don’t do that. We know you all are human, too.

    Things can’t be that bad down there. All we ever hear about in Oklahoma is how our new teachers are moving south. Maybe they just appreciate the 0% income tax in Texas.

  9. You guys might like this. It’s an article from the NYTimes about how Texas’ school finance system is collapsing.

    ” Public policy experiments rarely produce complete successes or total failures. They usually leave room for people with different goals or values to keep arguing.

    Occasionally, however, there’s a policy disaster so catastrophic that everyone agrees that something has to change. California’s convoluted attempt to deregulate electricity was one example. Texas’s decade-long experiment in school finance equalization – universally referred to as Robin Hood – is another.

    “In less than a decade, the system is approaching collapse; it has exhausted its own capacity,” write Caroline M. Hoxby and Ilyana Kuziemko, economists at Harvard, in a new working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research. “We show that the collapse was predictable.” (The paper, “Robin Hood and His Not-So-Merry Plan: Capitalization and the Self-Destruction of Texas’ School Finance Equalization Plan,” is available at http://post.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/hoxby/papers.html.)

    As school budgets fall and property taxes rise, Texans know Robin Hood is in trouble. But most do not really understand why.

    Some blame the very idea of equalization, others say schools are too dependent on property taxes, and still others argue that taxes are too low. Some declare that schooling has simply become more demanding and expensive.

    “Although it is a financially efficient model, the current system, as it is now designed, cannot live up to the standards of our ‘outcomes’-based accountability system,” Lloyd Jenkins, a school district trustee in the Dallas suburb of Plano, recently wrote in The Dallas Morning News.

    In fact, argue the economists, the Robin Hood system is anything but financially efficient. Robin Hood does not just move money from rich school districts to poor school districts. It does so in a way that destroys far more wealth than it transfers, and that erodes the tax base on which school funding depends. “

  10. Mike, you need a bit of instruction yourself.

    If you’re going to post this:

    Actually, there is plenty of research to show that once class size is lowered to 15 kids per classroom teacher you get significant improvement.

    The you probably shouldn’t, in the same posting, put this:

    IF this were true, and you didn’t post any links to research that shows it is,

    If you’re going to be hypocritical enough to demand evidence while presenting none yourself, don’t do both in the same posting.

    With that out of the way, Bart asked:

    Back to NYC, it was my understanding that funding for NYC schools was in the same league as DC.

    I prowled around on the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics – http://nces.ed.gov/) and couldn’t find those number. Probably my fault.

    I did find the per-pupil funding, by state, at the Education Intelligence Agency – http://www.eiaonline.com/ – and that has the following for 2000-2001:

    New York – $10,922
    New Jersey – $10,893
    Washington D.C. – $10,852
    U.S. Average – $7,284

    Lindenen, thanks for the link to the Postrel article. The Hoxby papers are pretty heavy going for non-economists.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    Put the money directly into the hands of the teachers…

    Another point in favor of putting the money in the hands of the teachers is that it would put an end to all that whining about how unfair it is that NBA players make more money then teachers.

    Hey Mike, next time you walk into class – presuming you’re actually a teacher of course – here’s a little exercise for you: multiply the number of kids in the class by the per-student funding figure and then subtract your own salary and bennies. Pretty big number, hey?

    How much of that could, even charitably, be described as going to education?

  11. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    If you’re going to be hypocritical enough to demand evidence while presenting none yourself, don’t do both in the same posting.

    Allen, you and I have had the funding arguement many times over and I have repeatedly posted links to class size and achievement. I assume you know how to look it up in the archives for this site.

    Hey Mike, next time you walk into class – presuming you’re actually a teacher of course

    I take it that is supposed to be a barb of some kind, not an effective one at that.

    Allen if you want to argue that schools and school districts waste money you are preaching to the choir. I can tell you, based on my experience as a teacher (yes, I actually am one) it is not the teachers squandering the money away. I could give you examples you would’ve never dreamed of or ever thought of on how school districts waste money.

  12. Mike in Texas says:
  13. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Allen, you and I have had the funding arguement many times over and I have repeatedly posted links..

    You’ve posted two links, one was a link to a union web site about NCLB compliance and the other was to an editorial in a Texas paper about the “Robin Hood” funding scheme which didn’t support your representations of the state funding process. Not the sort of stuff that let’s you retire on your laurels.

    I take it that is supposed to be a barb of some kind, not an effective one at that.

    This is the Internet. You’re who ever you say you are although you are pretty handy with the NEA party line.

    Here’s some class size links for you Allen

    http://www.bctf.bc.ca/ezine/archive/1999-2000/2000-04/support/03Class-Size.html

    Another union web site. Gee, I wonder if they have some axe to grind?

    http://www.ets.org/research/pic/memorandum.html

    Sorry, I actually read the article and they’re pretty clear about the equivocal nature of class-size reduction.

    And finally, this whopper….

    http://www.heros-inc.org/classsizeresearch.htm

    I also read this article.

    Here’s the criteria by which the students were chosed:

    (a) sex, (b) race, (c) economic status, (d) date of birth within 45 days, and (e) total pre-reading raw score within four point on the California Achievement Test Level 10.

    Oddly enough, nothing was mentioned about how the teachers were selected. Color me silly but I just have a little trouble taking study like this seriously when such an obviously confounding factor like teacher competence isn’t part of the criteria.

    Oh, but things get much better when we look at the conductor of the study and, coincidentally, the head of Health and Education Research Operatives Services Inc. None other then Dr. Helen Pate-Bain is the conductor of the study and the chair of HEROS. Even more interesting is her self-admitted affiliation: Past President of the National Education Association.

    Let’s all just throw up our hands in suprise that a laughable study, run by a “Past President of the National Education Association” comes to the conclusion that, yes, it’s quite clear we have to hire a couple of million more teachers.

  14. Mike in Texas says:

    You’ve posted two links, one was a link to a union web site about NCLB compliance and the other was to an editorial in a Texas paper about the “Robin Hood” funding scheme which didn’t support your representations of the state funding process. Not the sort of stuff that let’s you retire on your laurels.

    ‘Attaboy Allen, say it enough and maybe other people will begin to believe it too. We’ve had the funding arguement numberous times and it was you using the state of Texas’ own 55% figure who determined the state needs to spend 12K per student to achieve its goals.

    As far as links to class size studies, the largest ever, Project STAR has been thoroughly analyzed for 25 years and no one has found problems. Dr. Helen Pate-Bain may or may not be a past president of the NEA, I haven’t looked. At least she didn’t invent measures like the people on your side of the arguement have done (Jay Mathews, Chester Finn). I didn’t see any “Education Productivity Index” in her research or anything else that linked back only to her own research.

    How dare researchers factor in socioeconomic status of students! Of course, its one factor found to be a consistent indicator of education success and its one of the few things standardized tests have been found to accurately measure.

  15. Mike in Texas wrote:

    Attaboy Allen, say it enough and maybe other people will begin to believe it too.

    Back to personal insults I see. Too bad you don’t have much more to say when you can’t get away with the usual appeals to authority and misrepresentations.

    We’ve had the funding arguement numberous times and it was you using the state of Texas’ own 55% figure…

    I had to. You wouldn’t do the arithmatic or reveal the secret, final budget number that will cause education to fall from the heavens as the gentle rain.

    You’re a little too clever to paint yourself into a corner by committing to a specific number to get a specific educational result, just like the teacher’s unions. Just like them, you aren’t interested in education, you’re interested in income.

    Project STAR has been thoroughly analyzed for 25 years and no one has found problems

    It’s a “study” by someone with an Ed. D. for gosh sakes. You only take something like that seriously once you’ve determined whether the intent was research. Since it’s pretty ridiculous to think that you could glean anything about the relationship between class size and educational efficacy from a crudely constructed experiment like the humorously self-importantly named “Project STAR”, the self-evident conclusion is that research wasn’t the goal.

    The goal was to provide something that resembled science to bring some credibility to what’s really nothing more the self-service.

    At least she didn’t invent measures

    No, she just perverted science to service of financial gain. Of course, as the president of the NEA, what else would you expect?

    How dare researchers factor in socioeconomic status of students!

    How dare someone call themselves a researcher when they’re nothing more then a political hack!

    Of course, its one factor found to be a consistent indicator of education success

    Too bad the only thing you can offer up as evidence is tainted by that whiff of self-interest you find so detestable when it issues from the business community and so unnotieceable when it puts money in your pocket.

  16. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    You’re a little too clever to paint yourself into a corner by committing to a specific number to get a specific educational result, just like the teacher’s unions. Just like them, you aren’t interested in education, you’re interested in income.

    Allen, I’m more than happy to go with your number. If Dubaya wants 100% of the students passing 100% of the tests than spend the amount you determined Texas should be spending ($12, 200 was it) and let’s see what happens.

    Of course, both numbers, 100% and $12, 200 are impossible and you and I both know it. But then again, Dubaya and buddies don’t care about American schoolchildren learning, they care about lining their pockets and their buddies’ pockets with money. Why else would they set a goal impossible to achieve? It will give them the excuse they need to hand the money over to companies like Edison and McGraw-Hill.

    the self-evident conclusion is that research wasn’t the goal.

    Puuulease, that research has been analyzed and duplicated ad nauseum. Just b/c you don’t like the outcome doesn’t make it wrong.

    It’s a “study” by someone with an Ed. D. for gosh sakes

    I don’t know what part of the country you live in but here in Texas all PhD candidates take rigorous statistacs course to ensure they are capable of doing the research. Calling it a “study” with the quotation marks around it doesn’t make it wrong.

    Too bad the only thing you can offer up as evidence is tainted by that whiff of self-interest you find so detestable when it issues from the business community and so unnotieceable when it puts money in your pocket.

    You can search through every posts I’ve ever made and no where have I ever demanded more money for being a teacher. I had a good laugh over the money in my pocket line. In the last 3 years my salary has gone up a grand total of 20 dollars a month. As I tell people who ask me about it, I have a job I enjoy and look forward to going to each day so I can’t complain about my salary.

    Can you say that for yourself, Allen?

  17. Mike in Texas:

    Of course, both numbers, 100% and $12, 200 are impossible and you and I both know it.

    Gosh, I don’t know.

    D.C. is over 13K, New York over 12K and seven more states over 10K. I think if we wanted to squander more money on system that’s better at manufacturing excuses then literates, we could probably do it.

    Having looked at what passes for competency tests, I’m inclined to think that 100% passing rate ought to be a minimum.

    That’s what we know.

    Puuulease, that research has been analyzed and duplicated ad nauseum.

    I’ll agree with the “ad nauseum” and even with the duplication. It’s just that I, and anyone who hasn’t drunk the NEA kool aid, don’t think the words “research” out to be found near most instances of the contraction “Ed. D.”

    Calling it a “study” with the quotation marks around it doesn’t make it wrong.

    No, putting it in quotation marks indicates my disdain at a transparent attempt at self-service in a poorly-executed guise of research. There’s real research about education but all the two have in common is columns of figures and charts.

    As I tell people who ask me about it, I have a job I enjoy and look forward to going to each day so I can’t complain about my salary.

    Well bully for you.

    Too bad you have so much else to complain about though:

    – Like the amount Texas spends on education (the state you teach in)
    – and the terribly unfair idea of accountability
    – and the ridiculous expectations parents and the public have of you
    – and the amount Texas spends on sports stadiums

    Can you say that for yourself, Allen?

    How I feel about my employment is immaterial to this discussion. What is material is that you’d rather change the subject from the “garbage” nature of most of what passes for research in the education community, the ridiculous quality of the research you’re using to try to support your assertion that class size relates to educational efficacy and the double-standard you apply to self-interest in the service of the public education orthodoxy and self-interest in the service of commercial enterprise.

    What’s kind of neat is that, just like your hypocrisy isn’t working in this little corner of the Internet, it also isn’t working in the big, wide world. NCLB, charters, vouchers and President Bush are all in part or entirely repudiations of what the public education system has become. Whatever my feelings may be about my job, I am looking forward to each day, comforted by the changes I see taking place in the education scene.

    Can you say that for yourself, Mike?

  18. Mike in Texas says:

    Allen wrote:

    I’m inclined to think that 100% passing rate ought to be a minimum.

    Huh??

    Too bad you have so much else to complain about though:

    – Like the amount Texas spends on education (the state you teach in)

    Hmm, why shouldn’t I complain about politicians who readily admit they are only funding 55% of the goals they are demanding from my profession? Contrary to what you seem to think this doesn’t make me a whiner or incompetent.

    It’s just that I, and anyone who hasn’t drunk the NEA kool aid, don’t think the words “research” out to be found near most instances of the contraction “Ed.

    Got tired of hurling insults at me and decided to insults at people with PhD’s in education I see. I would gladly listen to one of these people, teachers who have been there, done that, got the t-shirt that some politicians, statistician or pschometrician who thinks they have all the answers.

    No, putting it in quotation marks indicates my disdain at a transparent attempt at self-service in a poorly-executed guise of research.

    Of course, its transparent because it refutes your beliefs, therefore it can’t be right.

  19. Mike in Texas says:

    Class size is one research proven reform schools can make but people like you Allen don’t want to spend the money. They’d rather rant and rave about faddish curriculum (as they have labeled whole language) while pushing another faddish curriculum, phonics only instruction. Their, and your, lack of ability to see the hypocrisy in these views show your true motives; American schoolchildren can be a prime source of revenue for some rich business associates of President Bush. Never mind if American schoolchildren actually learn anything. So many of these people remind me of liberals who wring their hands and talk about “the poor” as if they really want to help them. Now the chant is “for the children” and bite off the last part of that sentence, “and for our pocketbooks”.