Education Stimulus

Straight Talk About Student-Teacher Ratios

June 17, 2010

On Monday, the Washington Post’s PostPartisan blog published an opinion piece attempting to dispel myths about the “teacher layoff crisis.” Opinion writer Charles Lane tells readers not to believe the hype about the drastic consequences of 100,000 to 300,000 teachers losing their jobs in the coming school year. He says a proposed $23 billion Education Jobs Fund pending in Congress, which would help states avoid teacher lay offs, is both unnecessary and not enough to stimulate the economy anyway. He claims that even if 300,000 teachers lost their jobs, the student-teacher ratio in the country would only increase from 15.3 students per teacher to 16.6 students per teacher, a seemingly insignificant jump.[1] But his analysis oversimplifies the situation surrounding teacher layoffs, painting a rosier picture of student-teacher ratios than may be the reality in many schools.

Lane is correct in stating that current estimates of potential teacher layoffs – ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 – are shaky at best. These numbers are based on worst-case scenario counts of teachers that have been pink slipped, but have not officially lost their jobs. Typically, schools pink slip far more teachers than will actually be let go in case something drastic really happens. Additionally, these numbers do include non-instructional staff like administrators, janitors, and bus drivers, further obscuring the relationship between the number of actual layoffs and the direct impact they will have on classrooms.

However, Lane does not account for the variation in potential teacher layoffs or the variation in student-teacher ratios in classrooms across the country. In many states, the situation is far more dire than Lane makes it seem. For example, the budget situation in California is particularly challenging right now, meaning that as many as 36,000 teachers have been pink slipped. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average student-teacher ratio in California in 2008 was 20.8 students per teacher. If 36,000 teachers are let go, the student-teacher ratio in the state will increase to 23.6 students per teacher, an increase of nearly three students.

In New Jersey, current student-teacher ratios are much lower – 12.4 students per teacher. But the state’s projected budget deficit suggests that as many as 9,950 teachers could lose their jobs in the coming year. Such a change would increase the state’s average student teacher ratio by more than 1 student to 13.6 students per teacher. In Virginia, where 10,000 teachers could potentially lose their jobs, the student-teacher ratio could increase from 17.1 to 19.9 students per teacher, almost three students and more than twice the national number Lane cites.

Teacher layoffs also do not affect schools within a state or even a district evenly. According to teacher seniority rules in place in most schools, the teachers that were most recently hired are let go first. This means that new, or less experienced teachers are laid off first during budget cuts. Typically, more experienced, tenured teachers work in high-income schools because those schools are perceived to be more attractive teaching placements. As a result, less-experienced teachers tend to work in low-income schools. Because the less-experienced teachers will be laid off first due to seniority rules, low-income schools will bear the majority of the burden of the teacher lay offs. The students in these schools, who often benefit the most from low student-teacher ratios, will be disproportionately effected by teacher lay offs.

When viewed nationally, an across-the-board increase in student-teacher ratios from 15.3 to 16.6 seems insignificant, as such large aggregations often do. But the reality in some states and in low income schools could be much worse than Lane acknowledges. While it’s impossible to know how many teachers will lose their jobs in the coming school year, it’s imperative that we keep the discussion about the impact of these lay offs as honest as possible. Skimming over the details, as Lane does with student-teacher ratios, distorts the debate and could result in some truly negative consequences for our students and schools.

[1] It is also important to note that student-teacher ratios and class size are two different measures. In 2008, the average national class size was 20.0 students in elementary schools and 23.4 students in high schools.

Redirecting ARRA Funds to Save Teacher Jobs

June 10, 2010

The Education Jobs Fund, a $23 billion fund requested in legislation in both the House and the Senate to help states pay for teacher salaries and benefits, appears to be dead due to lack of Senate support. But that House leaders and Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI) are looking for creative alternatives to the spending program. Yesterday, Politico reported that House leaders and Congressman Obey are exploring the possibility of redirecting “idle” funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to help states avoid significant teacher layoffs.

The ARRA provided nearly $100 billion for education programs including a $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) to help states fill their education budget gaps. Though the SFSF provided funds that local education agencies can use to help avoid teacher layoffs, the other funds provided through programs like Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are more restrictive. Based on the Politico report, it sounds like Obey would like to repurpose some of the unspent ARRA funds into a program like the SFSF that states could use specifically to support teacher salaries and benefits. However, the mechanical and political details of such a move are still quite unclear.

Technically, it would be easiest to use appropriations legislation to redirect the unobligated ARRA funds under programs like Title I grants and IDEA into a program like the SFSF specifically for teacher salaries and benefits. Assuming Congressman Obey only intends to repurpose education ARRA funds, however, the vast majority of the non-SFSF ARRA funds have already been obligated to states and territories.

As of May 28, 2010, all IDEA funds had been obligated to states. The remaining unobligated ARRA funds include $1.4 billion for Title I, about $1.4 billion for Pell Grants, $250 million in Statewide Data Systems Funds, about $150 million in Teacher Incentive Grant Funds, and $38 million for Vocational and Rehabilitative Services. This total amount of unobligated funds, around $3.2 billion, doesn’t come close to the $23 billion requested for these purposes in previous version of House and Senate legislation.

To make up the rest of the difference, any legislation would have to redirect already obligated (but not outlaid) ARRA funds into a fund specifically meant for teacher salaries and benefits. Not including SFSF, about $21.9 billion in ARRA education funding has yet to be outlaid, including roughly $8 billion in both IDEA and Title I. This amount is much closer to the $23 billion that was requested for the Education Jobs Fund by the House and Senate.

If Congressman Obey is able win passage of a bill (or pursue some other measure) that would redirect already obligated funds, he would also have to find political consensus on how to redistribute them among the states. He could redistribute them based on total and school age population, much like the SFSF monies were originally distributed. This would give each state a pot of flexible funding they could use to support their teaching forces. However, it could also mean that the states that need the money the most, like California, New Jersey, Illinois, and Utah that have already used the vast majority of their SFSF monies, could end up with less money than they need to keep their school budgets afloat. Conversely, states that have spent very little of their SFSF funds, like Wyoming and Alaska, could get far more money than they need.

Or Congressman Obey could try to take the more challenging political route, and pursue legislation that would distribute the funds among states according to need. This, however, is unlikely to fly in Congress as some states could easily lose out on funds that were once theirs under the ARRA. While this method could have the best results for struggling states, it is the least likely to gain traction in Congress.

Of course, Congressman Obey has released almost no details about his plan to redirect “idle” ARRA funds and all we can do is speculate as to what he has in mind. It is clear, however, that he is looking into creative solutions to shore up state education budgets. Check back with Ed Money Watch for more details as they arise.

A Jobs Bill That Can Pass: Community College Reform

Friday, June 18, 2010 - 9:00am

On June 18th Jamie Merisotis, President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation for Education, Stan Jones, President of Complete College America, Carol Puryear, Director of the Murfreesboro Campus of the Tennessee Technology Center and James Kvaal, Special Assistant to President Obama, discussed how the Federal Government can reduce unemployment without increasing the deficit. Schwartz Fellow Paul Glastris, editor in Chief of The Washington Monthly, moderated the discussion.

Making Tough Choices About Teacher Compensation During Hard Times

June 3, 2010

Over the past several weeks, news media outlets have been buzzing about potential drastic teacher layoffs ranging from between 100,000 and 300,000 nationwide if the Education Jobs Fund isn’t passed in Congress. The Education Jobs Funds is a $23 billion program that has been proposed in both the House and the Senate that would help states pay for teacher salaries and benefits during the economic downturn. The fate of the proposal is unclear at this time. But the news media has framed the story as a false choice. The large estimated numbers of teacher layoffs cited by the media and advocates assume that nothing else can change about teacher compensation in the mean time. In other words, 100,000 to 300,000 teachers could lose their jobs in the coming year as long as state and local policymakers make no changes to teacher salary schedules, benefits, or planned raises in response to budget shortfalls. Now it looks like the Education Jobs Fund versus mass layoffs may indeed be a false choice for many school districts.

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested another way to avoid massive teacher layoffs that doesn’t involve an additional $23 billion in federal spending. He announced that he plans to freeze all teacher and administrator salaries at the levels specified by the current salary schedule. Now, this means that the salary schedule will stay the same. However, teachers will still receive pay raises based on their increase in years of experience – otherwise known as “step” increases. So, even though teachers with five years of experience will be making the same amount this coming year as they did last year, a teacher that now has six years of experience will be making more than she or he did with only five years of experience.

According to the New York Times, this salary freeze, combined with the elimination of an estimated 2,000 teacher positions through attrition and retirement, would save $400 million and 4,400 teacher and administrator jobs. To be sure, the legality of this move is somewhat in question – Mayor Bloomberg cannot unilaterally decide the content of the teachers’ salary contract without union ratification – though New York City’s teachers are currently working without a finalized contract. Bloomberg could feasibly refuse to sign one if the union decides not to accept the salary freeze.

Regardless of these complications, the New York example suggests that there are ways to help shore up state and school district budgets rather than Congress enacting another bailout. One such approach is to freeze teacher salary schedules at the current level, as Bloomberg suggests, or even roll the schedules back to 2008 or earlier to help balance budgets. Another option is to cut the benefits teachers receive in addition to their salaries like healthcare, life insurance, and retirement. Finally, and likely the least attractive option, is furloughing teachers.

Obviously, these methods may not work in all states or school districts. In some districts in California, for example, freezing salary schedules maybe not provide sufficient enough savings to overcome current budget deficits. In other districts with particularly strong teacher’s union presence, they may be unable to receive approval for these strategies no matter how dire the consequences. For these places, continued federal action, like the Education Jobs Fund, may be absolutely necessary. But any additional federal funding should come with some strings attached, like requiring districts to exhaust cost savings options before receiving funds. Otherwise, the federal funds simply allow states and school districts to defer tough budget choices that are ultimately necessary.

In a critical mass of districts, however, making difficult decisions about teacher compensation may be the only lifeline left for districts to keep their budgets afloat and teachers in their classrooms. A full $23 billion Education Jobs Fund seems unlikely at this point – while education stakeholder groups have rallied behind the legislation, Congress seems less than enthused about spending that much money on education. Now appears to be the time to gather all the stakeholders at the table and start hashing out a teacher compensation system that makes sense in today’s economy. New York is not the first district to do so, and it likely won't be the last.

State Legislative Changes and Race to the Top

June 2, 2010

Race to the Top, a new federal competitive grant program that provides funds to states to engage in reform activities, has been praised for its early impact on state education legislation. In fact, the Obama Administration has repeatedly discussed the program’s success due to the large number of states that have made legislative changes to improve their likelihood of winning a piece of the $4.35 billion pot. Though only two states won awards in the first round of the competition, 35 states and the District of Columbia just submitted their Phase 2 applications for 10-15 remaining awards. There has been little discussion about what these state legislative changes really mean for education reform. A recent report from Learning Point Associates titled “State Legislation: Emerging Trends Reflected in the State Phase 1 Race to the Top Application” delves into the changes states have made in the last three years to their teacher legislation, whether directly tied to the Race to the Top competition or not.

To compile the report, Learning Point Associates reviewed all 41 of the Race to the Top (RttT) Phase 1 applications, noting any mention of state legislation passed in 2007 or later that related to teacher quality, effectiveness, or distribution. This information provides a good picture of recent state legislative activity either in the two years before RttT or during the program’s implementation. In total, 29 of the 41 states that applied in Phase 1 mentioned that they had recently passed or planned to pass state legislation pertaining to teachers. Of these, 18 passed legislation in 2009 or 2010, likely as a direct consequence of the RttT eligibility requirements. An additional 10 states mentioned legislation that would be passed later in 2010.

Of the 29 states that mentioned legislation pertaining to teachers in their RttT applications, 15 discussed legislation surrounding teacher evaluations, including 11 states that had previously passed such legislation in 2007 or later. Nine of those states passed legislation that details how teacher effectiveness should be measured using evaluations. This includes using student growth data and teacher observations. Four states also passed legislation that prescribed how evaluation data must be used for either certification or compensation or tenure purposes.

Thirteen states also mentioned state legislative changes pertaining to alternative teacher certification rules and programs, 12 of which have actually passed such legislation. These legislative changes either expanded the list of eligible alternative certification providers in the state (6 states); created teacher residency programs (2 states); removed barriers for second-career or other non-traditional teachers that wish to enter an alternative certification program (5 states); pr required alternative certification programs to increase their admissions criteria (1 state).

Seven states mentioned legislative changes affecting teacher compensation – all seven of which have already been passed. Another seven discussed legislation addressing teacher distribution and other seven describe legislation that changes teacher tenure laws. In both of these cases, only 5 states have actually passed this legislation. The report also discusses states that made or have proposed legislative changes pertaining to professional development, traditional certification, and teacher mentoring and induction.

This Learning Point Associates report makes clear that many states have been actively reforming their teacher quality, effectiveness, and distribution legislation over the past three years. To a certain extent, this activity can be attributed to Race to the Top – at least 18 states have made such changes since the program was first announced. But in most states, this legislation is still in the planning phases and little is known about whether the changes were significant enough to have a positive effect on the teaching force. This information, which will truly determine whether RttT was a success, probably won’t be available until the funds have run out.

20 States Receive State Longitudinal Data Systems Grants

May 27, 2010

On Monday, the Department of Education announced that 20 states had been awarded State Longitudinal Data Systems grants for the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant cycle. The ARRA provided $250 million for the State Longitudinal Data Systems program which provides three-year competitive grants to states to help design and implement Pre-K–16 education data systems. The 20 new grants range from $5.1 million for Ohio to $19.7 million for New York. These grants are vital to the continued advancement of state education data systems, particularly as states and schools begin to explore ways to use these systems to improve instruction in the classroom.

The existing data systems in each of these 20 states vary widely in their complexity and capacity. Some states, like Texas and Utah, have already implemented large educational data systems covering many years and services including data on teachers, finances, and student details like disciplinary information. As a result, each state requested funds to achieve different goals in the grant application. Other states, like Minnesota and California, are either just beginning or are in the progress of implementing these complex data systems. For a full matrix of each state’s data capabilities and progress, see here.

The states’ applications reflect the varied capabilities of their existing data systems. For example, New York, which received the largest grant, received funds to help the state build on and improve its existing Pre-K through 12 data system. These activities will include:

  • Creating a student-to-teacher matching system;
  • Beginning expansion to a Pre-K through 20 system including links with state higher education data and data from other state agencies like workforce, health and social services;
  • Adding an Instructional Support system that helps teachers use data to improve instruction;
  • Building a data base for research and policy analysis;
  • Implement a student progress tracking system; and
  • Designing a quality control plan.

Texas, which received the second largest grant, received funds to expand on its existing Pre-K through 20 data system and improve the transparency and accessibility of data. These activities will include:

  • Adding college readiness test outcomes to the data base;
  • Including Pre-K, kindergarten, and workforce data;
  • Creating and implementing new standards and protocols for data collection;
  • Automating the data collection process; and
  • Improving the culture of data use for instructional improvement in the state.

Ohio, with the smallest grant award this year, received funds to fill current gaps in its existing data system including linking more years of data and making the data more useable for research and policy analysis. These activities will include:

  • Develop a plan to integrate early education data into the system;
  • Implement a system that will share transcript data between K-12 and higher education;
  • Facilitate the analysis of available data to answer policy and research questions;
  • Develop a reporting and analysis tool for users of the data system.

The other 17 states will receive funds for similar activities all targeted toward strengthening their existing data systems, adding new variables or years of data, expanding the accessibility of the data, and ensuring that the data are available to help teachers improve their instruction in real time.

Through this large infusion of federal funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, these 20 states will be able to make large advancements in their education data capabilities. Soon, some particularly advanced states will be able to track students from early education through entrance into the workforce including their participation in social services and other government-run programs.

These data systems have the power to provide real concrete information on what is and is not working in our schools for these students. But many states are far from that point and will require continued support to get there. The State Longitudinal Data Systems grant program, coupled with state funds, will likely continue to be vital to this process.

Some Details on the Investing in Innovation Fund Grant Applications

May 18, 2010

Last week, school districts, non-profits, and consortia of schools submitted their applications for the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant program. i3 is a new $4.35 billion program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that provides competitive grants to school districts, schools, and non-profits implementing successful innovative practices. As of Wednesday, May 12th, 1,669 applications had been submitted with more potentially coming in from applicants in the federally-declared disaster area in Tennessee. Though the Department of Education (ED) has not yet released details on these applications, we can draw some conclusions from the information organizations submitted to ED in early April on the types of programs they would be proposing for i3.

More than 2,400 school districts, consortia, or non-profits filed intents to apply with ED; the majority intended to propose development grants focusing on standards and assessments or low-performing schools. Additionally, most will focus on college access and success and students with special needs. A more detailed break-down is described below:

Of the organizations that submitted intents to apply, 68.1 percent intended to apply for development grants. Development grants provide up to $5 million to help implement promising, but relatively un-tested, strategies and programs on a limited scale. However, applicants must provide rationale for the program they have chosen based on past research or experience. In contrast, 21.6 percent of organizations filed their intent to submit validation grants, which can reach $30 million and require more concrete evidence of success. Finally, only 3.6 percent filed their intent to submit scale-up grants. Scale-up grants provide up to $50 million for programs or strategies with strong evidence of success that will be scaled to meet the needs of more students. The remaining 6.7 percent of filers did not specify the type of grant they would be submitting.

According to ED documentation, up to 100 development grants and 100 validation grants will be awarded under i3. Given the disproportionate number of potential development grant applications, the competition is sure to be stiff in that category. At the same time, the relatively small number of validation grants means that as many as one in five applicants could win a grant. On the other hand, only up to five scale-up grants are likely to be awarded, meaning that quite a few strong programs will be disappointed.

Potential applicants also had to indicate which area of “absolute priority” their grant application would fall under. ED selected four education policy areas of focus for the i3 grants and each proposed grant must fall under one of them. More than 30 percent of filers announced their intent to apply under the standards and assessments priority. These grants will support strategies to help underserved students succeed in rigorous courses, improve the quality of assessments, and better translate standards into classroom practices. Twenty-six percent of filers submitted their intent to apply under the low-performing schools priority. These grants will support practices to help improve struggling schools. Of the remaining filers, 20.1 percent submitted their intent to apply under the teacher and principal effectiveness priority and 13.2 percent submitted their intent to submit applications under the improved use of data systems priority. Finally, 10.2 percent of filers did not declare an absolute priority.

Finally, filers had to declare any competitive preference priorities that would be addressed in their grant applications (filers could declare more than one priority or none at all). More than half – 56.6 percent – of filers intended to submit applications under the college access and success preference, meaning that their grant proposal would support efforts to improve the access and success of underserved students in college. Forty-nine percent of potential applicants filed under the students with disabilities and limited English proficient priority and 40.7 percent filed under the rural local education agency priority. However, only 28.0 percent filed under the early learning priority and 3.4 percent did not file under any priority.

Unsurprisingly, large numbers of potential applicants filed from large states like Texas, California, and New York. California had the most with 341, while New York had 149, and Texas had 128. However, some smaller states had impressive numbers of filers. For example, 64 potential applicants filed from the District of Columbia, more than 39 other states including Wisconsin and New Jersey. This unusually high number of potential applicants (DC has the fewest students in the nation) could be an indicator of the active reform landscape in DC. North Dakota had the lowest number of potential applicants at 2, and Wyoming only had 3.

Obviously, these aren’t the final statistics for the actual i3 applications. The Department received nearly 800 fewer applications than it expected based on the filed intents to apply. However, 1,669 applications is nothing to scoff at – the i3 reviewers certainly have their work cut out for them.

Whatever Happened to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund?

April 27, 2010

Last week, Ed Money Watch published a post about the impact of the proposed Education Jobs Fund, a $23 billion fund pending in Congress that would help states pay for salaries and benefits in schools and institutions of higher education. However, most of the debate over the Education Jobs Fund assumes that states have already used all of the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) they received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and 2010. While some states have used up all of their funds, and would be the main beneficiaries of the proposed Education Jobs Fund, our analysis of U.S. Department of Education data suggests that many states still have significant SFSF monies remaining.

According to Department of Education data on the amount of Education Stabilization and Government Services funds that have been obligated and disbursed to states as of April 16th 2010, only five states have already used more than 90 percent of their total SFSF allocation. These states are California, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, and Wisconsin. However, 21 states have used less than 50 percent of the total funds allocated to them. This includes both West Virginia and Wyoming, which appear not to have used any of their SFSF monies. Nationally, 60.5 percent of the SFSF funds have been used.

The story is slightly different if you look at the Education Stabilization funds (money meant only for education) and the Government Services funds (money that can be used for other government services) separately. Nine states have disbursed more than 90 percent of their Education Stabilization funds including Nevada, Washington, and Wisconsin, who have used 100 percent of these funds. The other states are California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Twenty states, on the other hand, have spent less than 50 percent of their Education Stabilization funds.

Nine states have also disbursed more than 90 percent of their Government Services funds. California, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin have all used 100 percent of these funds while Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Nevada have spent slightly less. However, 31 states have disbursed less than 50 percent of their Government Services funds.

Clearly, states vary widely on how rapidly they have spent both their Education Stabilization and Government Services funds. Some, like California and Illinois, have spent the funds quickly due to desperate fiscal situations. Others, like Texas, have spent them slowly because their budgets have not demanded significant support. And still others, it is possible, will receive these federal funds on a reimbursement basis, meaning they have already spent them but have not yet drawn them down from the federal coffers. Regardless, there are still quite a few states that have a ways to go before they run out of SFSF monies.

These findings suggest that Congress could make the Education Jobs Fund more effective by targeting federal funds to states that need the money most (given their lack of remaining SFSF monies or significant budget gaps) or making receipt of funds contingent on the implementation of certain cost-saving strategies. Either way, it seems that some states are going to need a new infusion of funds much sooner than others.

To see this information for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, click here.

Estimating the Impact of the Proposed Education Jobs Fund

April 22, 2010

Last week, Ed Money Watch wrote about the resurrection of the Education Jobs Fund, a proposed $23 billion fund to help states maintain both their K-12 and higher education labor forces. The bill, proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), is nearly identical to a similar program passed by the House in December of 2009. These additional funds could be key to keeping teachers in classrooms over the next two fiscal years. To better understand the potential effect of this program on education jobs, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) released a report estimating the number of jobs that could be saved or created by the Education Jobs Fund legislation pending in Congress. While their analysis presents some valuable findings, it lacks some nuance on the spending practices of the states. As a result, Ed Money Watch has recreated their analysis with some important tweaks.

The ECS report’s author, Michael Griffith, first distributed the $23 billion in Education Jobs Funds that would be distributed under the proposed bill among the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico according to the same distribution method as the existing federal program that is supporting education job costs called the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (share of school age and total population). Then he divided each state’s amount of funds into a pot for K-12 and a pot for public institutions of higher education (IHE). He based this calculation on a three year average breakdown of total state spending on K-12 and higher education (77 percent for K-12 and 23 percent for IHEs). Finally, he divides both the K-12 and higher education allocations by average instructor salaries plus benefits in each sector to determine the estimated number of jobs that could be saved with the funds. In the end, Griffith concludes that the Education Jobs Fund could save around 256,000 K-12 jobs and 51,000 higher education jobs.

While the ECS calculations provide a clean, back-of-the-envelope approach to the effect the Education Jobs Fund could have on education employees, they do not recognize the variation in state spending between K-12 and higher education. To better account for these differences, Ed Money Watch recreated this analysis using data collected from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund Phase 1 application each state submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

Specifically, the application required that each state report how much of their State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF) they would spend on K-12 and higher education in 2009 and 2010 separately. We used this information to find the total percent of SFSF monies allocated to K-12 and higher education in each state. This provides a better indicator of potential distributions of Education Jobs Funds than the national average data ECS uses.

However, this method has one complication. Some state SFSF applications report SFSF monies remaining in 2011. Because these funds would be distributed directly to K-12 school districts via Title I funding formulas in 2011, we counted any reported remaining SFSF funds for 2011 in the K-12 allocation for each state. As a result, our analysis shows that eight states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, and Texas, would allocate 100 percent of their SFSF, and therefore Education Jobs Funds, to K-12.

Using these revised K-12 and higher education distributions for each state, we divided each by average instructor salaries plus benefits in each sector to get total jobs saved or created. For the K-12 salary data, we used 2009-10 estimates of average teacher salaries in each state plus 22 percent for benefits. This is the same data used in the ECS report. However, for the higher education salary data, we used national average compensation for instructors in public institutions for 2009-10. ECS used data from 2008-09 instead.

Our calculations resulted in dramatically different results than the ECS calculations.

Under our method, at least 17 states would spend more than 23 percent of their Education Jobs Funds on higher education. At the same time, however, 15 states would spend less than 10 percent of those funds on higher education. Overall, average spending on higher education would be 17.2 percent. Additionally, the 2009-10 data on average instructor higher education salaries ($100,349) is slightly higher than the 2008-09 data. As a result, we found that the proposed Education Jobs Fund would save approximately 36,600 higher education jobs, about 14,000 fewer than ECS’s calculation.

At the same time, we found that the proposed Education Jobs Fund would save nearly 271,000 K-12 jobs, about 15,000 more than ECS did. This is because 32 states reported that they would spend more than 77 percent of their SFSF monies on K-12 education, resulting in an average of 82.7 percent of spending on K-12. This means that states are likely to allocate more Education Jobs Funds to help save K-12 jobs as well.

Both our analysis and ECS’s are far from perfect. As states begin to finalize their 2010-11 budgets and better understand projected deficits in the coming years, the relative need for federal support in K-12 or higher education could shift significantly. Regardless of those changes, it is clear that the Education Jobs Fund could save or create a significant number of jobs in K-12 and higher education if it makes it through Congress. In the last few weeks, states have been pink slipping thousands of teachers and other staff, threatening to cut programs, and considering shortened school weeks. The Education Jobs Fund may be the only way to keep those worse-case scenarios from becoming reality.

Click here to download a PDF containing these data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Education Jobs Program Lives

April 14, 2010

As we’ve mentioned before, the House of Representatives passed a $23 billion education jobs bill as part of its Jobs for Main Street Act back in December 2009. That program never went anywhere, and Congress went on to pass the HIRE Act, a law that provides tax incentives for businesses and makes some changes to the Qualified School Construction Bond program. After education funding was left out of the most recent jobs bill, states and school districts have been begging for additional federal support to keep schools open and teachers in classrooms. According to reports from Ed Week and the Washington Post, their prayers have been answered.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) proposed a $23 billion education jobs bill, much like the one passed in the House, earlier today. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated his support for the bill, citing widespread budget troubles in schools around the country.

Despite Secretary Duncan’s support, this legislation is likely to present a challenge in the Senate, where large bailout-style spending programs have proven unpopular in the past. For example, back in 2009 when the House and Senate were working on what would eventually become the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Senate moderates cut nearly $30 billion from the House’s original State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a $48.6 billion program that helps states fill budget gaps in education and other services.

Hopefully, the Senate will be able to build some sort of consensus around this education jobs program, which is much more targeted to salary and benefits expenditures than general operating costs, given the current need.

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