budget bump

New York City’s education budget has jumped over 40 percent in 10 years. Here’s why.

PHOTO: Monica Disare
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, center endorses Mayor Bill de Blasio for re-election.

Michael Bloomberg may have been the education mayor, but Bill de Blasio is spending a lot more money on it.

City spending on education has grown from nearly $17 billion in 2008 during Bloomberg’s reign, to a projected $24.3 billion for next year. In the last five years of Bloomberg’s tenure, education spending increased 13 percent; by the end of his first term, spending under de Blasio is projected to jump 27 percent.

That boost, according to a new Independent Budget Office analysis of the city’s preliminary 2018 budget, is largely attributable to two main categories: spending on staff salaries and payments to charter schools and non-public schools often used for special education.

“When we look at the proposed growth for 2018 in the mayor’s preliminary budget, these two items account for almost all of [it],” said Ray Domanico, lead author of the IBO report.


De Blasio’s 2014 contract with the UFT is having a ‘major impact’

Salary and benefits for the city’s 75,000 teachers comprise the largest share of the education budget: $15.3 billion. Next year alone, staff salaries (which include non-teachers) are set to cost the city an additional 5.7 percent — or $823 million — almost as much as the five-year cost of the mayor’s Renewal program for struggling schools. During the last four years of the Bloomberg administration, by contrast, salaries grew only about 1.3 percent per year.

The reason for that large discrepancy, according to the IBO, is a contract de Blasio negotiated with the United Federation of Teachers months after taking office, which gave teachers retroactive pay to make up for a salary freeze.

“The cost of the salary increases and retroactive pay embodied in the 2014 contract settlement have had a major impact on the DOE’s budget,” according to the report.

Another reason for the growth in staff costs is, well, more staff. Nearly 13,000 more people are projected to be drawing education department salaries next year, compared with the last year of the Bloomberg administration.

Charter payments continue to grow

Despite smaller personnel costs during the final Bloomberg years, what did increase significantly were payments to charters and non-public schools. Those payments rose from $1.3 to nearly $2.5 billion between 2008 and 2013, a growth rate of roughly 13 percent each year.

That trend has continued under de Blasio. As charter school enrollment has grown to over 100,000 students —10.5 percent of the city’s public school student population — payments have also increased.

Payments to charters and non-public schools are set to cost $3.5 billion in 2018, up roughly 1 billion since the last year of the Bloomberg administration.

The IBO’s Domanico said staff salaries and charter payments are likely to increase in the future — and might help explain why de Blasio’s vision for the city was relatively light on education proposals this year.

The education budget “is going up by a billion dollars for 2018, and it’s being driven by these two items,” he said. “One has to wonder how much is available to do other things.”

Freddi Goldstein, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office, said in an email that the city was proud of its investment.

“This investment supports an education agenda that serves every student, and we’re seeing the results – pre-K for every 4-year-old, the highest-ever grad rates, lowest ever dropout rates, and the highest rate of students going to college,” she said. “That’s money well spent.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a response from the mayor’s office.

test scores

How did your school perform on TNReady tests? Search here for results

Student's group

Nearly 700 schools – more than 40 percent of schools in Tennessee – improved in student performance across most grades and subjects, according to a state release of 2018 test results. And 88 school districts or 60 percent met or surpassed student growth expectations.

Test score data for every public school in Tennessee was released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

You can search our database below to find out how students in your school performed. The results show the percentage of students in each school who are performing at or above grade level.

Note: The state doesn’t release data for an exam if fewer than 5 percent of students scored on grade level or if 95 percent of students were above grade level. An asterisk signifies that a school’s score falls in one of those two categories. 

colorado accountability

Test results can spell relief or gloom for state’s lowest performing schools and districts

File photo of sixth-grade students at Kearney Middle School in Commerce City. (Photo by Craig Walker, The Denver Post)

All three school Colorado districts under the gun to improve their academics showed some gains on test results released Thursday — but the numbers may not be enough to save one, Adams 14, from facing increased state intervention.

Of the three districts, only the Commerce City-based Adams 14 faces a fall deadline to bump up its state ratings. If the district doesn’t move up on the five-step scale, the state could close schools, merge Adams 14 with a higher-performing neighbor, or order other shake-ups.

The school district of Westminster and the Aguilar school district, also on state-ordered improvement plans, have until 2019 to boost their state ratings.

The ratings, expected in a few weeks, are compiled largely from the scores released Thursday which are based on spring tests.

District officials in Adams 14 celebrated gains at some individual schools, but as a district, achievement remained mostly dismal.

“We continue to see a positive trend in both English language arts and math, but we still have work to do,” said Jamie Ball, manager of accountability and assessment for Adams 14.

The district’s high school, Adams City High School, which has its own state order to improve its ratings by this fall, posted some declines in student achievement.

District officials said they are digging into their data in anticipation of another hearing before the State Board of Education soon.

In a turn likely to invite higher scrutiny, district schools that have been working with an outside firm, Beyond Textbooks, showed larger declines in student progress.

In part, Ball said that was because Beyond Textbooks wasn’t fully up and running until last school year’s second semester. Still, the district renewed its contract with the Arizona-based firm and expanded it to include more schools.

“Its a learning curve,” said Superintendent Javier Abrego. “People have to get comfortable and familiar with it.”

For state ratings of districts and high schools, about 40 percent will be based on the district’s growth scores — that’s a state measurement of how much students improved year-over-year, when compared with students with a similar test history. A score of 50 is generally considered an average year’s growth. Schools and districts with many struggling students must post high growth scores for them to get students to grade level.

In the case of Adams 14, although growth scores rose in both math and English, the district failed to reach the average of 50.

Credit: Sam Park
PARCC, district on state plans
Credit: Sam Park

Westminster district officials, meanwhile, said that while they often criticize the state’s accountability system, this year they were excited to look at their test data and look forward to seeing their coming ratings.

The district has long committed to a model called competency-based education, despite modest gains in achievement. The model does away with grade levels. Students progress through classes based on when they can prove they learned the content, rather than moving up each year. District officials have often said the state’s method of testing students doesn’t recognize the district’s leaning model.

“It’s clear to us 2017-18 was a successful year,” said Superintendent Pam Swanson. “This is the third year we have had upward progress. We believe competency-based education is working.”

The district posted gains in most tests and categories — although the scores show the extent of its challenge. Fewer than one in five — 19.6 percent of its third graders — met or exceeded expectations in literacy exams, up from 15.9 percent last year.

Students in Westminster also made strong improvements in literacy as the district posted a growth score of 55, surpassing the state average.

Westminster officials also highlighted gains for particular groups of students. Gaps in growth among students are narrowing.

Schools still on state ordered plans for improvement, and deadline for improvement

  • Bessemer Elementary, Pueblo, 2018
  • Heroes Middle, Pueblo, 2018
  • Risley International Academy, Pueblo, 2018
  • HOPE Online Elementary, Douglas 2019
  • HOPE Online Middle, Douglas, 2019
  • Prairie heights Middle, Greeley, 2019
  • Manaugh Elementary, Montezuma, 2019
  • Martinez Elementary, Greeley, 2019

Look up school results here.

One significant gap that narrowed in Westminster was between students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, a common measure of poverty, and those who don’t. In the math tests given to elementary and middle school students, the difference in growth scores between the two groups narrowed to three points from 10 points the year before, with scores hovering around 50.

Results in individual schools that are on state plans for improvement were more mixed. Three schools in Pueblo, for instance, all saw decreases in literacy growth, but increases in math. One middle school in Greeley, Prairie Heights Middle School, had significant gains in literacy growth.

The Aurora school district managed to get off the state’s watchlist last year, but one of its high schools is already on a state plan for improvement. Aurora Central High School has until 2019 to earn a higher state rating or face further state interventions.

Aurora Central High’s math gains on the SAT test exceeded last year’s, but improvement on the SAT’s literacy slowed. The school’s growth scores in both subjects still remain well below 50.

Look up high school test results here.