Pseudo-Science and a Sound Basic Education: Voodoo Statistics in New York

By Hanushek, Eric A. | Education Next, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Pseudo-Science and a Sound Basic Education: Voodoo Statistics in New York


Hanushek, Eric A., Education Next


Checked:

"The New York Adequacy Study: Determining the Cost of Providing All Children in New York an Adequate Education," American Institutes for Research and Management Analysis and Planning (March 2004).

"Resource Adequacy Study for the New York State Commission on Education Reform," Standard & Poor's School Evaluation Service (March 2004).

"Report and Recommendations of the Judicial Referees," in Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc., et al., Plaintiffs, against The State of New York, et al., Defendants (November 2004).

Most people who read the headlines last February were stunned to learn that New York City schools were being short-changed by $5.6 billion per year, or more than $5,000 per student. The 43 percent court-ordered budget increase, from around $13 billion in operating expenditures to something approaching $19 billion (not including some $9 billion over five years for building improvements), is the largest school finance "adequacy" judgment ever awarded.

Of course, most people do not have a good grasp on either the economics or the performance of New York City schools. If they did, they would be even more stunned by the declared shortfall.

Figure 1 shows the recent history of spending in New York City, now nearly $13,000 per student per year, which is more than 50 percent above the national average and pulling away.

The city does, by any standard, face huge education problems. Indeed, despite a drastic restructuring of the school bureaucracy, implemented by Mayor Michael Bloomberg beginning in 2002 (see Forum, p. 11), and despite the heavy infusions of cash shown described in Figure 1, Gotham's academic outcomes remain poor. On the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, 46 percent of the city's students scored "below basic" in mathematics, and 38 percent were below that low threshold in reading (compared with 33 and 28 percent for the nation, respectively). On the state exams that can be tracked over time, New York City has had mixed results--improvement in some areas but declines elsewhere.

But the discrepancy between years of budget increases and years of mediocre academic outcomes did not deter New York State Supreme Court Judge Leland DeGrasse from deciding that the problem could be solved by an annual addition of $5.6 billion.

The very process of budget determination implicit in such judicial appropriations gives the first indication that something is fundamentally haywire. Ordinarily, courts have nothing to do with expenditures. That is a matter for the political branches, not the courts, to decide--a constitutional arrangement that led that great New Yorker, Alexander Hamilton, to declare the judiciary the weakest branch. In New York, as in all other states, the normal appropriations process begins with the governor's creating the budget recommendations for education and other state services. The legislature, subject to gubernatorial veto, appropriates the funds. But such constitutional proprieties were set aside when Judge DeGrasse--with no previous education expertise and no relevant staff support and without considering the impact on other areas of expenditure--intervened to establish the level of education appropriations for New York City. Suddenly the weakest branch had declared itself the boss.

Given the fundamental constitutional conflict involved, this judicial decision will probably be in and out of the courts and legislature for some time. To get some hint of the future, one may look no farther than neighboring New Jersey, where the courts have retained control over the financing of several city school districts for decades.

Nonetheless, it is informative to investigate what is behind the DeGrasse appropriations, because New York is only the leading edge of a national movement. In more than two-thirds of the states, teacher unions, school districts, and other interested parties have filed similar lawsuits that seek judgments resembling the stunning result handed down in New York.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pseudo-Science and a Sound Basic Education: Voodoo Statistics in New York
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.