Author Archives: afscme

Do School Districts Matter?

Source: Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Matthew M. Chingos and Michael R. Gallaher, Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, March 2013

From the summary:
School districts occupy center stage in education reform in the U.S. They manage nearly all public funding and are frequently the locus of federal and state reform initiatives, e.g., instituting meaningful teacher evaluation systems. The most charismatic leaders over the last decade, people such as Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, have received considerable national media attention. Financial compensation for district leaders is high, with many being paid more than the chief state school officers who oversee the entire systems in which they serve. Some private philanthropies pour money into initiatives to improve district performance. Others invest in ways that suggest that they too think districts are important but as impediments to rather than instruments of reform.

Despite the centrality of school districts in all the ways described, we know very little from existing research about how important they are to student achievement relative to other institutional components for delivering education services, including teachers and schools. Neither do we have information on the size of the differences in effectiveness among districts or whether there are districts that show exceptional patterns of performance across time, e.g., moving from low to high performing.

We begin to fill these information gaps in the present report by analyzing 10 years of data involving all public school students and school districts in Florida and North Carolina. We find that school districts account for only a small portion (1% to 2%) of the total variation in student achievement relative to the contribution of schools, teachers, demographic characteristics of students, and remaining individual differences among students. Within just the institutional components affecting student achievement, the effect of schools is about twice that of districts whereas the effect of teachers is about seven times larger than that of districts….

…These findings provide an empirical justification for efforts to improve student achievement through district-level reforms and should be a tantalizing fruit for those who want to better understand why some districts are better than others and translate that knowledge into action.
See also:
Technical Paper

2013 Pension Funding Study

Source: John Ehrhardt, Zorast Wadia, Alan Perry, Milliman, March 2013

From the press release:
Milliman, Inc., a premier global consulting and actuarial firm, today released the results of its 2013 Pension Funding Study, which analyzes the 100 largest US corporate pension plans. In 2012, these pension plans were once again defined by record-low discount rates, which led to record-high pension obligations and a $388.8 billion pension funding deficit—a $61.1 billion deficit increase in 2012. Since the end of 2010, declining interest rates have widened the pension funding deficit by more than $150 billion, driving record deficits in each of the last two years. The pension funding ratio stood at 77.2% at year’s end, down from 79.2% at the end of 2011. The deficit increase and reduced funding ratio in 2012 happened in spite of efforts by certain plan sponsors to de-risk their pension plans.

Inside Employers’ Minds: Confronting Critical Workforce Challenges

Source: Mercer, Inside Employers’ Minds: Confronting Critical Workforce Challenges, Special Issue, January 2013
(registration required)

In taking the pulse of employers around the world, Mercer found that three issues rose to the top of their 2012 agendas:
-Taking pension risk off the table – managing pension liability risk and its impact on corporate financial performance
– Making smart benefit choices – helping employees make better decisions about their retirement and health benefits
– Building high-impact talent – creating agile, world-class workforces responsive to quickly changing business conditions.

Also in this issue:
De-risking pensions
Moving to a defined contribution model for health benefits
Big data, better workforce

Quarterly Survey of Public Pensions: 4th Quarter 2012

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, March 28, 2013

This quarterly survey (formerly known as the Finances of Selected State and Local Government Employee Retirement Systems Survey) provides national summary statistics on the revenues, expenditures and composition of assets of the 100 largest state and local public employee retirement systems in the United States. These 100 systems comprise 89.4 percent of financial activity among such entities, based on the 2007 Census of Governments. This survey presents the most current statistics about investment decisions by state and local public employee retirement systems, which are among the largest types of institutional investors in the U.S. financial markets. These statistical tables are published three months after each calendar quarter and show national financial transactions and trends for the past five years.
See also:
Historical Data
NOTICE – 2012 Changes to the Survey of the Finances of Public Employee Retirement Systems

Secrecy for Sale: Inside the Global Offshore Money Maze

Source: Marina Walker Guevara, Nicky Hager, Mar Cabra, Gerard Ryle and Emily Menkes, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, April 4, 2013

Secret records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reveal tens of thousands of people in more than 170 countries and territories linked to offshore companies and trusts.

Key Findings:
– Government officials and their families and associates in Azerbaijan, Russia, Canada, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and other countries have embraced the use of covert companies and bank accounts.
– The mega-rich use complex offshore structures to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces and other assets, gaining tax advantages and anonymity not available to average people.
– Many of the world’s top’s banks – including UBS, Clariden and Deutsche Bank – have aggressively worked to provide their customers with secrecy-cloaked companies in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore hideaways.
– A well-paid industry of accountants, middlemen and other operatives has helped offshore patrons shroud their identities and business interests, providing shelter in many cases to money laundering or other misconduct.
– Ponzi schemers and other large-scale fraudsters routinely use offshore havens to pull off their shell games and move their ill-gotten gains.
Piercing the secrecy of offshore tax havens
Source: Scott Higham, Michael Hudson and Marina Walker Guevara, Washington Post, April 6, 2013

Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011

Source: Lynda Laughlin, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P70-135, April 2013

From the press release:
Child care costs have nearly doubled in the last quarter century while the percentage of families who pay for child care has declined, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2011 released today. The percent of family income spent on child care has stayed constant between 1986 (the first time these data were collected) and 2011, at around 7 percent, for families who paid for child care even though the cost of child care has increased over time….

…Families with an employed mother and children younger than 15 (see chart) paid an average of $143 per week for child care in 2011, up from $84 in 1985 (in constant 2011 dollars). The median wage for a full-time child care worker did not increase over the last 20 years. The median wage for a child care worker in 2011 was $19,098, not different from $19,680 in 1990 (in constant 2011 dollars). The percent of families who reported they made a cash payment for child care for at least one of their children declined from 42 percent to 32 percent between 1997 and 2011….

2012 IRS Data Book

Source: Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Publication 55B, March 2013

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Data Book is published annually by the Internal Revenue Service and contains statistical tables and organizational information on a fiscal year basis. The report provides data on collecting the revenue, issuing refunds, enforcing the law, assisting the taxpayer, and the budget and workforce.

The IRS Data Book also presents lists of principal officers and the IRS organization chart, which are located at the back of this report.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released the 2012 IRS Data Book, a snapshot of agency activities for fiscal year 2012—Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012. In addition to information on taxes collected and returns processed, the report also includes information about enforcement, taxpayer assistance, and the IRS budget and workforce, among others.
See also:
Previous years

Do Income Projections Affect Retirement Saving?

Source: Gopi Shah Goda, Colleen Flaherty Manchester, and Aaron Sojourner, Issue Brief, IB#13-4, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, April 2013

The brief’s key findings are:
• One barrier to saving may be ignorance about how it translates into retirement income.
• A recent study conducted a field experiment to see whether providing workers with retirement income projections affected the amount they saved.
• The results show that such projections, accompanied by information on retirement planning, could modestly increase saving.
o The experiment’s positive effect on saving works, in part, by boosting individuals’ knowledge and confidence.
o But its effect on saving is limited among those with who have difficulty paying bills, prefer to “live for today,” or tend to procrastinate.

Who Pays Taxes in America in 2013?

Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, April 2, 2013

It is sometimes claimed that many low- and middle-income Americans don’t pay taxes while the richest Americans pay a hugely disproportionate share of taxes, especially after enactment of the “fiscal cliff” deal that allowed some taxes to go up.

As the table…illustrates, America’s tax system is just barely progressive even after the fiscal cliff deal’s effects. Claims that the rich pay a disproportionate share of taxes often focus only on the federal personal income tax and ignore the other taxes that people pay, like federal payroll taxes, federal excise taxes, and state and local taxes. Many of these other taxes are regres­sive, meaning they take a larger share of income from poor and middle-income families than they take from the rich.

The table shows the share of total taxes (all federal, state and local taxes) that will be paid by Americans in different income groups in tax year 2013.

tax chart

New Tax Laws in Effect in 2013 Have Modest Progressive Impact
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice, April 2, 2013