A new teacher’s pension is supposed to be a perk. The truth is that for the majority of the nation’s new teachers, what they can anticipate in retirement benefits will be worth less than what they contributed to the system while they were in the classroom, even if they stay for decades.
School districts across the land are contending with rising education costs and constrained revenues. Yet state policies for assisting school districts in financial trouble are uneven and complex. Interventions are often haphazard, occur arbitrarily, and routinely place politics over sound economics.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute set out to answer a basic (yet complicated) question: how much does each school in the D.C. metro area spend on day-to-day operations for each student it enrolls? In the Metro D.C.
The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers—more than three million strong—now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures.
The Fordham Institute supports school choice, done right. That means designing voucher and tax-credit policies that provide an array of high-quality education options for kids that are also accountable to parents and taxpayers.
School districts face an enormous financial burden when it comes to educating our highest-need students. Financing the Education of High-Need Students focuses on three specific challenges that are often encountered when districts—especially small ones—grapple with the costs of serving their highest-need special-education students.
One of three technical reports on retirement costs and school-district budgets.
When it comes to pension reform in the education realm, it’s hard to stay positive. Here, we’re saddled with a bona fide fiscal calamity (up to a trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities by some counts), and no consensus about how to rectify the situation. No matter how one slices and dices this problem, somebody ends up paying in ways they won’t like and perhaps shouldn’t have to bear. All we can say is that some options are less bad than others.
In an era of budgetary belt tightening, state and local policy makers are finally awakening to the impact of teacher pension costs on their bottom lines. Recent reports demonstrate that such pension programs across the United States are burdened by almost $390 billion in unfunded liabilities. Yet, most states and municipalities have been taking the road of least resistance, tinkering around the edges rather than tackling systemic (but painful) pension reform. Is the solution to the pension crisis to offer teachers the option of a 401(k)-style plan (also known as a "defined contribution" or DC plan) instead of a traditional pension plan? Would this alternative appeal to teachers? When Teachers Choose Pension Plans: The Florida Story sets out to answer these questions.
This new policy brief by Nathan Levenson, Managing Director at the District Management Council and former superintendent of Arlington (MA) Public Schools, offers informed advice to school districts seeking to provide a well-rounded, quality education to all children in a time of strained budgets. Levenson recommends three strategies: prioritize both achievement and cost-efficiency; make staffing decisions based on student needs, not student preferences; and manage special-education spending for better outcomes and greater cost-effectiveness.
Education budgets are tight and state and district leaders must make tough decisions about where to save. But is the public willing to accept cuts? If so, where? According to the results of this new survey, many Americans are open—selectively open—to dramatic changes in how school districts do business.
The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English language arts and mathematics represent a sea change in standards-based reform and their implementation is the movement’s next—and greatest—challenge. Yet, while most states have now set forth implementation plans, these tomes seldom address the crucial matter of cost. This report estimates the implementation cost for each of the forty-five states (and the District of Columbia) that have adopted the Common Core State Standards and shows that costs naturally depend on how states approach implementation.
The "new normal" of tougher budget times is here to stay for American K-12 education. So how can local officials cope? This policy brief, by Mike Petrilli, provides a useful tool for navigating the financial challenges of the current school-funding climate, complete with clear dos and don'ts for anyone involved in or concerned with local education budgets.
The latest installment of Fordham's Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series investigates one of the more controversial aspects of digital learning: How much does it cost? In this paper, the Parthenon Group uses interviews with more than fifty vendors and online-schooling experts to estimate today's average per-pupil cost for a variety of schooling models, traditional and online, and presents a nuanced analysis of the important variance in cost between different school designs.
Will the move toward virtual and “blended learning” schools in American education repeat the mistakes of the charter-school movement, or will it learn from them? The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, with the support of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, has commissioned five deep-thought papers that, together, address the thorniest policy issues surrounding digital learning. The goal is to boost the prospects for successful online learning (both substantively and politically) over the long run.
When it comes to public-sector pensions, writes lead author Mike Lafferty in this report, "A major public-policy (and public-finance) problem has been defined and measured, debated and deliberated, but not yet solved. Except where it has been." As recounted in "Halting a Runaway Train: Reforming Teacher Pensions for the 21st Century," these exceptions turn out to be revealing—and encouraging. As leaders around the country struggle to overhaul America's controversial and precarious public-sector pensions, this study draws on examples from diverse fields to provide a primer on successful pension reform. Download to find valuable lessons for policymakers, workers, and taxpayers looking for timely solutions to a dire problem.
In this "Ed Short" from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Amanda Olberg and Michael Podgursky examine how public charter schools handle pensions for their teachers. Some states give these schools the freedom to opt out of the traditional teacher-pension system; when given that option, how many charter schools take it? Olberg and Podgursky examine data from six charter-heavy states and find that charter participation rates in traditional pension systems vary greatly from state to state. When charter schools do not participate in state systems, they most often provide their teachers with defined-contribution plans (401(k) or 403(b)). But some opt-out charters offer no alternative retirement plans at all for their teachers. Read on to learn more.
This policy brief lists fifteen concrete ways that states can "stretch the school dollar" in these difficult financial times. It is written by Marguerite Roza, senior data and economics advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Michael J. Petrilli, executive vice president at the Fordham Institute.
In this volume, a diverse group of experts—scholars, educators, journalists, and entrepreneurs—offer wisdom and advice on how schools and districts can cut costs, eliminate inefficient spending, and better manage their funds in order to free up resources to drive school reform.
This study tackles a key question: Which of thirty major U.S. cities have cultivated a healthy environment for school reform to flourish (and which have not)? Nine reform-friendly locales surged to the front. Read on to learn more.
Ohio can boast of praiseworthy gains over the past decade in making school funding more equitable across districts, but there is more work to be done. To mitigate the school-finance inequities that remain within districts and gear school funding toward the realities of student mobility, school choice and effective school-based management, this report recommends that Ohio embrace Weighted Student Funding (WSF), which allocates resources based on the needs of individual students and by sending dollars directly to schools rather than lodging most spending decisions at the district level.
Everyone agrees that education funding today is a mess. But a broad, bipartisan coalition now urges a new method of funding our public schools--one that finally ensures the students who need the most receive it, that empowers school leaders to make key decisions, and that opens the door to public school choice. It's a 100 percent solution to the most pressing problems in public school funding--and it's called Weighted Student Funding.
Of all the controversies swirling around the nation's charter schools, none is more hotly contested than the debate over funding. Into the fray leaps Charter School Funding: Inequitys Next Frontier, the most comprehensive and rigorous study ever undertaken of how public charter schools are funded, state by state, and how their revenues measure up to dollars received by district-run schools.
With the passage of the politics-governance Act (NCLB), states have had to adjust their accountability systems to comply with federal law. As a result, in the summer of 2003 Ohio's Governor Taft signed House Bill 3, which dramatically changed the state's assessment system and what it means for charter schools. This report helps charter school leaders coordinate their testing and data reporting procedures to meet state and federal guidelines, in the hope that all students might surpass Ohio's academic expectations.
The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation asked experts to share their knowledge and ideas on topics related to effective education philanthropy. Here are seven papers that answer some of philanthropists' most important questions in the education reform arena.
Charitable giving in the U.S. is at an all-time high, as is the public's concern with the state of our K-12 education system. This guide provides practical advice for the philanthropist who is fed up with the status quo and eager to support effective education reforms. Making it Count reviews the state of U.S. public education, examines different ways that philanthropists are trying to improve it, explains why some strategies work better than others, profiles a number of education philanthropists, and recounts the experiences of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.
Can Philanthropy Fix Our Schools? Appraising Walter Annenberg's $500 Million Gift to Public EducationCarol Innerst, Alexander Russo, Raymond Domanico
According to this new study, Ambassador Annenberg's gift has left only small footprints on the urban school systems it set out to reform. Good intentions and a generous checkbook were not enough to transform troubled urban schools. This report includes case studies of New York (by Raymond Domanico), Chicago (by Alexander Russo) and Philadelphia (by Carol Innerst) and an afterword by Chester E.Finn Jr. and Marci Kanstoroom.