Fiscal Intelligence

Fiscal analysis that enables educators, small business owners, and community organizers to make informed decisions.

Category: School Management

Review of the Financial Plan of the City of New York

Over the past decade, City funding for education has more than doubled, rising from $6.2 billion in FY 2003 to $13.2 billion in FY 2013.

The May Plan assumes that the Department of Education (DOE) will reduce planned spending by a total of $1.2 billion during the financial plan period. This represents 40 percent of the total value of the agency program, which is greater than the DOE’s share of the City-funded budget. The majority of the savings would come from re-estimates of the cost of special education ($672 million) and from non-classroom efficiencies ($368 million). The DOE also intends to raise the price of school lunches by $1.00 for students whose families’ incomes exceed 185 percent of the poverty level.

The Pension Pain

School District’s Outstanding Debt and Pension Costs

The debt service increase accounts for 0.65% of the proposed tax levy increase for 2013-2014; mandated pension costs to the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) and the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) total 2.31%. Together, these constitute 2.96% of the proposed 3.19% (with STAR) tax levy increase.

Schools Shift From Textbooks to Tablets

The Associated Press

Schools Shift From Textbooks to Tablets

Philip Elliot

March 6, 2013

 

Related Article Found in: ABC News

 

Well before the cleanup from Superstorm Sandy was in full swing, students could read about the weather system that slammed the East Coast in their textbooks.

 

Welcome to the new digital bookcase, where traditional ink-and-paper textbooks have given way to iPads and book bags are getting lighter. Publishers update students’ books almost instantly with the latest events or research. Schools are increasingly looking to the hand-held tablets as a way to sustain students’ interest, reward their achievements and, in some cases, actually keep per-student costs down.

 

“We must use technology to empower teachers and improve the way students learn,” said Joel Klein, a former New York City schools’ chief who now leads News Corp.’s education tablet program. “At its best, education technology will change the face of education by helping teachers manage the classroom and personalize instruction.”

 

News Corp. officials planned to debut their Amplify tablet during a breakfast Wednesday at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. Priced at $299, the 10-inch unit runs on a school’s wireless Internet system and comes with software for teachers to watch each student’s activities, offer instant polls and provide anonymous quizzes to gauge student understanding.

 

Orders placed by June 30 will be ready for the start of the school year in the fall, officials at Rupert Murdoch’s company said ahead of the official announcement, adding yet another platform for schools to consider.

 

And a study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that more than 40 percent of students or teachers use some sort of tablet in their Advanced Placement and National Writing Project classrooms.

 

“When you think about it, these are A.P. classes and National Writing Project classes, and 4 in 10 say they are using these devices,” said Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “That’s 6 in 10 who aren’t using them. We still have a lot of room for growth.”

 

In coming years, growth seems to be the norm.

 

Christine Quinn, the speaker of the New York City Council, has suggested replacing textbooks — they cost the city $100 million a year — with tablets. Schools in Los Angeles last month allocated $50 million to start buying tablets for every student; the project is expected to cost $500 million by the time it is completed. Schools in McAllen, Texas, distributed 6,800 Apple tablets last year at a cost of $20.5 million.

 

But it’s not just the biggest school districts making the shift. The Eanes Independent School District in Austin is distributing more than 2,000 iPads to every student, from kindergarteners to high school seniors. The cost: $1.2 million.

 

Students, unlike some of their parents, aren’t blinking.

 

“The biggest challenge is that they’re growing up as digital natives, but when they get to the school door, they have to leave that at the door,” said Scott Kinney, who trains teachers on how to use Discovery Education’s products, which work on various platforms. “Kids are very comfortable with these things, so why aren’t we reaching them in a way that’s most beneficial to students?”

 

Discovery, the top digital content provider to U.S. schools, recognizes its potential to keep students interested with the most up-to-date material. For instance, it updated its science lessons for students in grades six through high school to incorporate Superstorm Sandy within weeks of its making landfall.

 

Students traced the path of the storm using digital maps, compared the changes in barometric pressure with wind speed and proposed cleanup plans for the region — even while cleanup crews were still working.

 

That fast turnaround is one of the main advantages of shifting to digital textbooks. So, too, are their language functions. For instance, a student working on his homework with a parent who isn’t fluent in English can switch to Spanish. The textbooks can toggle between languages so students who aren’t native speakers can check their understanding.

 

Another advantage: the digital books’ cost. Discovery’s lessons — branded “Techbooks” that run on laptops, desktops, iPads or other tablets — run between $38 and $55 per student for a six-year subscription. The average traditional textbook is $70 per student.

 

More than a half-million students are using Discovery’s texts in 35 states on various platforms.

 

But technology doesn’t guarantee success.

 

“If the teacher doesn’t know how to use it, obviously it’s not going to make much difference,” said Mevlut Kaya, a computer teacher at Orlando Science Schools, a charter program that offered each student a leased iPad if he or she achieved a 3.5 grade point average.

 

In classrooms at the private Avenues: The World School in New York City, students at all levels receive an iPad and then receive an iPad and MacBook Air in middle school. The school doesn’t buy textbooks and, in most cases, teachers automatically send students their reading and homework assignments over the school’s wireless Internet network.

 

It’s a system that’s normal for students, who often already have mastered the technology.

 

“They live in the world where they have these distractions, where they have an iPad on their desk or a smartphone in their pocket,” said Dirk Delo, the school’s chief technology officer.

 

That’s not to say there should be an instant shift, even technology evangelists warned.

 

“All too often, the technology programs I observed seemed more focused on bells and whistles, gadgets and gizmos, than on improving learning,” Klein said. “And in many school districts, teachers have been handed technology they either don’t think is effective or don’t know how to use. The last thing we need is just another pile of unused laptops in the back or the classroom.”

NYCDOE INFOGRAPHICS

Understanding the Teacher Salary Steps and the Triborough Effect

The Triborough Effect
Teacher salary schedules in NewYork State typically include 20 to 30 annual pay “steps” on each of at least four “lanes”-for teachers with bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, master’s plus 30 credits of graduate credits, and a master’s plus 60 credits. The following is a simplified example; many districts actually have more steps and lanes than shown here.  Most teachers spend most of their careers moving up salary steps-and, occasionally, across salary lanes-even if their union contract has expired, because the Triborough Amendment guarantees these changes. As a result, a school district’s salary cost rise even when union negotiations have reached impasse and there is no new contract. For the same reason, contract settlements calling for seemingly modest, inflation level increases in base salaries can be far more costly than they look. This is especially true in districts with predominantly younger teaching staffs.Figure 8 illustrates the projected 10-year pay history of a newly hired teacher, fresh out of college, working in a district with a salary schedule matching the reported medians for all Suffolk County districts in 2006-07. Assuming the teacher earns a master’s degree within two years-a prerequisite for certification-and assuming all base salary steps also increase annually by 2.6 percent under the union contract, her salary by Step 6 will reach $68,753, a pay boost of 58 percent after five years. Even if the salary schedule is frozen at 2006-07 levels due to a contract impasse, the Triborough Law guarantees that the Step 6 salary for a certified teacher with the same level of experience will reach $60,472, an increase of 39 percent in five years.  Earning 30 more graduate or “in-service” credits by the end of her sixth year will move the teacher up yet another lane on the salary schedule. Assuming a continued annual inflation level increases in base steps, the salary for this teacher in the “Masters + 30” lane by Step 10 will reach $100,687-an increase of 132 percent after 10 years on the job. Even if the salary schedule remained frozen throughout the period, Triborough would guarantee that the teacher’s pay by Step 10 reached $77,893-an increase of 79 percent from Step 1. By tacking on another 30 graduate or in-service credits during this period, the teacher could move to the “Masters + 60” lane and climb the ladder even faster, reaching $122,000 in her 11th year assuming continued inflation-level increases in base salaries. Higher pay for most public schools teachers is based solely on two factors: continued employment and extra training. But these are measures of inputs, not outcomes. According to the 2007 annual survey by the New York State School Boards Association, less than 2 percent of school districts said they based pay on performance, and only 9 percent said they used extra pay incentives to attract highly qualified teachers to their classrooms.  Few districts have even experimented with “performance pay” or other productivity measures, because unions and school administrators inevitably disagree over the outcome measures to be used in evaluating performance. However, it remains clear that any outcome measure, whatever its failings, would be a better measure of performance than longevity and added training alone.

-E.J. McMahon

Cutting to the Core by Charles Upton Sahm, City Journal Spring 2013

The choice of instructional materials can have as great an impact on student achievement as teacher quality and accountability, parental choice, and such innovations as charter schools—recent focal points of education reform. All of these can improve public education, but too little attention has been paid to curriculum, say Chingos and Whitehurst: “It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors give their patients.”

 

Cutting to the Core by Charles Upton Sahm, City Journal Spring 2013.

Education Infographic.

Are Colleges in the Northeast Prepared for the New Demographic Reality?

The national picture described above is not great, but it masks important regional trends. In the South, the most populous region in the country, the number of high school graduates in 2027-2028 is projected to be 8 percent larger than it was in 2008-2009. This situation is much more dire for the Northeast, which the report defines as Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In this region, the number of high-school graduates is expected to decline by 10 percent between 2009 and 2028. This means approximately 65,000 fewer students will be coming through the educational pipeline and moving into higher education, equating to a decline of 77 students per postsecondary institution in the region. (There are 869 postsecondary institutions in the Northeast.) Many higher-education institutions are bound to lose enrollments unless more significant attention is paid to nontraditional students or recruiting students from outside of the region.

Are Colleges in the Northeast Prepared for the New Demographic Reality?.

THE APPLENIZATION OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICTS