School Finance

Maybe not, is the answer from a recent poll of New York State teachers conducted by the Empire Center. The poll found that 70 percent of public-school teachers would have considered a defined-contribution retirement option had they been given the chance, and a quarter felt they definitely would have chosen a 401k-style plan over a traditional pension. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that most teachers (about two-thirds of those surveyed) felt such non-traditional plans were good retirement options, roughly the same number as approved of traditional pensions.

It's not clear that young workers value a benefit that many of them will never receive.

The cost of providing teacher pensions is on the rise in many states, New York included. It's also not clear that young workers value a benefit that many of them will never receive. Only a minority of educators teaches for a full career in the same pension system and receives the full retirement benefit offered.

The Empire Center poll asked teachers about one possible alternative, a hybrid plan that would provide a basic level of financial security through a small traditional pension, with a 401k-style individual account on top. Raegen Miller at the Center...

The No Child Left Behind Act requires public schools that have not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years to offer children of low-income families the opportunity to receive supplemental educational services (SES). SES comes primarily in the form of tutoring offered outside of regular schools hours and is often provided by private entities. Schools failing to meet AYP requirements are required to set aside 20 percent of their Title I funding to pay for SES and to measure the effectiveness of tutoring on student achievement. How much impact does SES have on student achievement though? A recent report by the Center for American Progress sets out to answer this question as well as provide policy recommendations that aim to improve the SES program.  

The report found that many states and school districts are extremely deficient in the evaluation and recording of SES providers and their results. A combination of self-reporting and unreliable data collection methods such as parent surveys has resulted in lack-luster evidence on the effectiveness of tutoring programs.  In addition to the lack of sufficient data among states and districts, the number of tutoring hours that students receive is critical in the impact...

access to higher education—and preparing students well for postsecondary
challenges during K-12—is a key priority for the nation's economic
competitiveness. The last year alone has seen a variety of initiatives to bend
the cost curve, including Rick Perry's $10K
bachelor's degree
and MIT's
(or "badges") for online learning. Community college enrollment
also boomed
during the financial crisis, with students and parents hunting
for a decent education at a "Great Recession"-friendly price. Since
college costs have grown
faster than inflation
(or health care!) since the early 1980s, improving
access and controlling costs must be linked.

Nassau Hall, Princeton
There's nothing "un-American" about choosing an affordable college over an a elite school.
Photo by Chris Barry.

Krugman sees something sinister
, even un-American, in all this talk of
value for money, however. He quotes Republican Presidential candidate Mitt
Romney on this point as proof that the GOP doesn't...

almost any leader of a growing urban charter school about their biggest
worries, and real estate is likely to be at the top of the list. City-dwelling
young parents want schools that are convenient to their homes and—increasingly—public
transit. Government has (appropriately) high expectations of school buildings
but provides little to no money for charter school facilities in most
jurisdictions. Educators and school leaders want all of the above to provide a
fantastic experience for their students—without breaking the bank. This is not
something the real estate market can provide in most cities. 

Newark skyline II
Cities like Newark, New Jersey are experimenting with creative uses of space to improve education options.
Photo by William F. Yurasko.

make the problem even more difficult, city centers are redeveloping, with
entire neighborhoods gentrifying, building mixed-use housing and innovative
commercial spaces. Young professionals who a generation ago might have fled for
the ‘burbs as they settled...

Once upon a time, corporate IT departments lived by the
slogan "no one ever got fired for buying IBM." Big Blue's products
were a safe bet in a rapidly evolving industry. The over-reliance of the
Fortune 500 on that safe bet proved to be a
problem for those companies
, which missed out on innovations adopted by
more nimble rivals, and for IBM itself, which stagnated in the absence of
pressure from customers to push the envelope. District schools suffer from the
same "buy IBM" problem, with state policies and district budget
decisions making it difficult for principals and teachers to adopt promising
new options for delivering instruction.

An EdWeek piece today documents the struggle
ed-tech startups wage...

blogger Layla Bonnot is a research intern at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Is the number of free and reduced-price lunch
participants an accurate proxy for the number of poor kids in America’s schools? New Jersey’s acting education
commissioner, Chris Cerf, isn’t so sure. A recent article in The Star-Ledger highlights Cerf’s two concerns: first, that the
self-reported basis of Free and Reduced Lunch Program (FRLP) participation
makes the count prone to errors and—potentially—fraud, and second, that this
number alone might not be a reliable proxy for the number of students living in

Mr. Cerf, I wouldn’t throw out school lunches quite yet—maybe just add a few other ingredients into the mix.
Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The issue of fraud in the lunch room pops up every couple of years. Detailed audits
have shown that some students who should receive benefits do not, some parents or
schools make honest mistakes...

The Pioneer Institute is no friend of the
Common Core—which needs to be remembered when reading its latest missive.
Released last week, this report claims that it will cost the nation $15.8
billion to implement the new standards over a seven-year period, with the lion’s
share of those costs incurred during the first year. (Worse, the authors further
remind readers that this is, at best, a “midrange” estimate.) The Institute projects
a $10 million-plus invoice per school
for professional development, technology, and textbooks and instructional
materials in the first year alone—a number that strikes us as radically
inflated, to put it kindly. To be sure, implementing the Common Core well will bring
costs: Aligning materials, instruction, and assessments with new standards
cannot be done on the cheap if it’s going to be done well. But Pioneer’s
estimates are misleading. Not every dollar spent on CCSS will be “new money.” (It’s
not as if we’re spending zip on professional development, textbooks, and the
rest currently.) Nor do states need to follow the tired blueprint we’ve...

How much does an "adequate" K-12 education cost?
What about a "reasonable" education? Courts weigh in on these
questions regularly; last year alone saw a New
Jersey ruling
demanding half a billion more in state support for the
so-called Abbott districts, as well as a Colorado
that questioned voters' judgment about what constituted appropriate
support of a "thorough and uniform" school system. This year brings
an interesting new development to the table: New Hampshire voters may tell
the state Supreme Court to butt out entirely

There's a lot to be said for the Granite State's
typically libertarian approach.

There's a lot to be said for the Granite State's
typically libertarian approach. As the Hoover Institution's Rick Hanushek said
to Ed Week after the Colorado ruling, the
courts are not a good place to adjudicate the ongoing academic research on the
role of school spending in driving achievement. In particular, the record of New Jersey's Abbott
districts, the recipients of billions of dollars in additional court-mandated
state support since the mid-1980s, is abysmal.

This highlights one of the most fundamental...

We are
obligated to respect the office of President of the United States but nobody needs to
agree with what the occupant of that office says. And Barack Obama could not
have been more wrong in his mid-day
yesterday to the nation's governors on the subject of school

Barack Obama
The President could not have been more wrong in his remarks yesterday to the nation's governors on the subject of school teachers.
Photo by jamesomalley.

In perhaps his
most vivid example yet of election-year pandering to the teacher unions that
comprise a non-trivial part of the Democratic Party's "base," he
rattled on at considerable length about the need to "get more teachers
into our classrooms."

MORE teachers.
Not better teachers. Not teachers that add greater value to their students and
make their schools more effective. Not teachers who know their subject matter.
Not more pay and greater professional opportunities for outstanding teachers.

Chris Cerf
Chris Cerf & Co. deserve praise for trying something new in a touchy, costly program area.

New Jersey
is trying something new, and promising, to improve the quality of special
education in the state. Education commissioner Chris Cerf recently awarded $1M in grants
to districts that had the highest absolute performance and highest growth for
their special ed students.

The Garden
State's implementation of
performance-based funding has serious strong points. In a program area that
focuses largely on inputs (i.e., the level of funding and staff dedicated to
special ed students), these grants shift the spotlight to quality. The
initiative also shows how much good a robust data system can do.

The long-term incentives performance-based funding could
provide in this area are a little more worrying, however. A variety of children
are lumped under the "special education" umbrella, and measuring
performance and growth looks very different in each locale depending on the mix
of conditions a district's...