School Finance

Mike and Michelle discuss the “opt-out outrage,” good news from Kansas, and hope for the quagmire that is the United States Congress. Amber has the goods on exactly how generous public pension plans are. Amber's Research Minute Not So Modest: Pension Benefits for Full-Career State Government...

Just how generous are public pension plans? In this AEI report, Andrew Biggs tabulates the benefits—including pension and Social Security benefits, but not including health care benefits—that an average, full-career, state employee who retired in 2011 or 2012 now receives and compares the total with the income of full-time, full-year employees in his state. (Bear in mind that twenty-two states include teachers in their state retirement systems, while twenty-seven have separate systems for them.) In the average case, a retired state employee enjoys combined pension/Social Security income greater than the income of 72 percent of full-time employees working in his/her state. At the less generous end of this spectrum we find Maine, where benefits to full-career government employees (including teachers) exceed the earnings of 31 percent of full-time workers. At the high end is Oregon, where state retirees (including teachers) exceed the earnings of 90 percent of full-time workers in the Beaver State. (You read that right.) Other exceptionally generous states include West Virginia, California, and Nevada, all of which pay average full-career state retirees benefits that exceed 87–89 percent of the wages earned by full-time workers in those jurisdictions. Biggs also examines replacement rates, which measure retirement income as a percentage of pre-retirement earnings. Most financial advisors recommend a replacement rate of 70 percent, meaning that one’s retirement benefits (including Social Security) should equal 70 percent of one’s pre-retirement salary. Well, Biggs finds that the replacement rate paid to an average full-career state employee is 87 percent of final...

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Ohio’s urban policymakers are searching for ways to (a) improve their students’ achievement and college-going rates, (b) boost enrollment in their schools, and (c) increase city population—or at least keep people from fleeing. Making progress toward this trifecta of goals is tough-sledding. We at Fordham have documented the struggles of Ohio’s urban schools in our annual report-card analysis, and have observed the massive declines in school enrollment in the state’s “Big 8” urban areas.

A recent Education Next article looks at one college-scholarship program in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a city the size of Canton and with very similar demographics. Established in 2005, these privately funded scholarships allow Kalamazoo’s high-school graduates to attend a Michigan public college or university. The scholarship is worth between 65 to 100 percent of tuition, and scholarship-bearing students are required to maintain a 2.0 grade point average (GPA) while in college.

This aid not only supports college enrollment, but it also is designed to reverse Kalamazoo’s flagging K-12 enrollment and to give the city’s current grade-school students another reason to succeed in their studies. After all, why bother with “college readiness” if it’s unaffordable?

A research study of the program found promising results after its third year (2008). The city’s district enrollment increased, overall and also across both White and African American student groups. Moreover, they found a significant increase in African American students’ GPA and a significant decrease in the number of days suspended for African American and for all students.

The early...

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By now, education observers are aware of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s incursion on the Big Apple’s charter sector.

No one should be surprised; this was no ambuscade, no lying in wait. He publicly campaigned against charters. He actually called his predecessor’s policy of allowing charter public schools to share public-school space with district public schools “abhorrent.”

This has been a shame for low-income kids, of course, given NYC’s charters’ superb performance. But it has made for 24-karat media fodder.

Hizzoner has picked a fight with Eva Moskowitz, not only the operator of a network of tremendously successful charters but also one of the toughest pugilists in the city’s notoriously combative political squared-circle. The Democratic mayor is now involved in internecine warfare over charters with the state’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, who publicly declared, “We will save charter schools.

But de Blasio’s camp hasn’t turned tail; they’ve trickily tergiversated. Despite their words and deeds, the mayor’s camp is claiming he’s not really against chartershis narrative got hijacked. He likes charters just fine!

Former governor Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s father, brilliantly said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”

Given the mayor’s attempt at playing both sides, his team might be credited with implying a third part of the equation: “You spin in prevarication.”

Though all of this makes for Broadway-ready pyrotechnics, there is an important and as-of-yet unexplored element of this script....

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Mike and Dara “Let It Go” with student free speech, Obama’s federal budget request, and Louisiana’s CTE revamp. Amber confirms the obvious: location matters to prospective teachers. Amber's Research Minute “ New Evidence on Teacher Labor Supply ,” by Mimi Engel, Brian A. Jacob, and F. Chris Curran...
Dara’s taste in TV shows is questionable, but her ed-policy knowledge is not. She and Michelle dish on Common Core implementation, student-data privacy, and marketing in schools. Amber gets pensive about pensions. Amber's Research Minute Missouri Charter Schools and Teacher Pension Plans: How Well...

Yesterday, I jokingly tweeted that since today would be a snowy Friday before a holiday weekend, the U.S. Department of Education would probably release SIG data. (They’ve executed numerous SIG-related “Friday afternoon trash dumps” in an attempt to minimize the field’s attention to this failed—and massively expensive—program.)

Turns out my joke wasn’t funny at all. 

They’ve done it again.

As you might remember, several months ago, the Department released second-year results, meaning two years of data from cohort-one SIG schools and one year of data from cohort-two schools. But they had to retract the data because of mistakes made by a contractor.

So today, they’ve released the corrected information.

On a Friday afternoon.

Before a holiday weekend.

I’ve belabored the fiasco that is SIG, so I won’t pile on today. I just hope someone, someone, in the Department is saying, “If we find ourselves continually dumping bad SIG news, shouldn’t we just admit we messed up and ask Congress to end this program?”

Here’s what you need to know.

  • When the program launched, we were told that this now-$6 billion program would produce “dramatic” improvements in our most troubled schools. The Secretary talked of “transformation not tinkering.”
  • The most persistently low-performing schools in American got several million dollars, on average, and yet a third of them got worse.
  • On average, schools with two years of funding and interventions under their belts saw a three percentage point gain in reading proficiency—just about the same gain as all
  • ...
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