Category Archives: Education

The radical plan to change how Harvard teaches economics

Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, May 22, 2019

Raj Chetty has an idea for introducing students to econ that could transform the field — and society…..

….Chetty has made his name as an empirical economist, working with a small army of colleagues and research assistants to try to get real-world findings with relevance to major political questions. And he’s focused on the roots and consequences of economic and racial inequality. He used huge amounts of IRS tax data to map inequality of opportunity in the US down to the neighborhood, and to show that black boys in particular enjoy less upward mobility than white boys.

Ec 1152 is an introduction to that kind of economics. There’s little discussion of supply and demand curves, of producer or consumer surplus, or other elementary concepts introduced in classes like Ec 10. There is no textbook, only a set of empirical papers. The material is relatively cutting-edge. Of the 12 papers students are required to read, 11 were released in 2010 or after. Half of the assigned papers were released in 2017 or 2018. Chetty co-authored a third of them.

And while most economics courses at Harvard require Ec 10 as a prerequisite, Ec 1152 does not. Freshmen can take it as their first economics course…..

….If this were just a pedagogical shift at Harvard, that would be one thing. But Chetty is aiming to make the course a model for other schools. After the financial crisis, many economists have concluded that Econ 101 is broken across the university system and is not preparing students for a world where markets frequently fail. Chetty’s class offers a new way to teach an introductory course, yet at the same time is more closely aligned with what contemporary economic research looks like. The course’s lecture videos are already available online, for students at other institutions to use…..

Oregon: Legislation increases school funding via new corporate tax, credit positive for state and school districts

Source: Patrick Liberatore, Baye Larsen, Eva Bogaty, Nicholas Samuels, Emily Raimes, Timothy Blake, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector Comment, State government and public K-12 schools districts, May 23, 2019
(subscription required)

On May 16, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation that increases preK-12 education spending by a projected $1.2 billion for the state’s 2019-21 biennium starting July 1, 2019. Growth in state support is credit positive for Oregon school districts because it will increase resources as education costs continue to rise. The added funding comes from a dedicated state corporate activity tax established by the legislation. Besides generating more school funding, the tax is credit positive for the state because it will diversify its revenue sources, which are heavily reliant on volatile personal income taxes….

California: Revised budget increases funding for school districts and community colleges, a credit positive

Source: Helen Cregger, Eric Hoffmann, Leonard Jones, Moody’s, Sector Comment, Public K-12 school districts and community colleges, May 22, 2019
(subscription required)

On May 9, California Governor Gavin Newsom released a revised version of the state’s fiscal 2020 budget, which includes a substantial increase in minimum funding levels for K-12 public schools and community college districts, a credit positive. The new budget also benefits K-12 schools with the state agreeing to kick in added funds to help school districts with pension payments to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System….

Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2018–19

Source: American Association of University Professors, May 2019

From the summary:
For our annual Faculty Compensation Survey, the AAUP collected data from more than 950 colleges and universities across the US, including community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and major research universities. The 2018-19 data cover more than 380,000 full-time faculty members, and also include salaries for senior administrators and pay for part-time faculty members.

On average, salaries for full-time faculty members at US colleges and universities are 2 percent higher in 2018-19 than they were in the preceding academic year. But with prices in the economy as a whole growing by 1.9 percent during the year, faculty salaries barely budged when adjusted for inflation. This is the third successive year that increases in average full-time faculty salaries have barely outpaced inflation….

Influence without Bargaining: Unionization at the University of Wisconsin, 1930–1957

Source: Timothy Reese Cain, Philip J. Wilkinson, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 16 no. 2, May 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Through a historical case study of the University of Wisconsin Teachers Union (American Federation of Teachers Local 223) this article considers the roles that early unionized faculty could play in influencing their institution without ever pursuing a contract. It argues that the Wisconsin local effectively used research and political power to improve conditions for instructional workers and to affect funding patterns across the institution. It did so while only ever attracting a minority of faculty to join. In addition to its important salary work, which was often focused on improving the conditions of the instructors and others at the lowest ranks, Local 223 addressed an array of educational and societal issues. As such, it had elements of what in the modern era might be considered social movement unionism, combining both efforts to aid members and activities designed for broader social change.

Growing school pension burdens will require more state support

Source: Matthew Butler, Joshua Grundleger, Emily RaimesMoody’s, Sector In-Depth, State government – US, April 9, 2019
(subscription required)

Recent actions by states signal growing recognition that as pension burdens — unfunded liabilities and annual costs — escalate for K-12 school districts, state assistance will likely need to increase. California (Aa3 positive), Indiana (Aaa stable) and Oregon (Aa1 stable) all recently proposed budget legislation that would boost school funding by making increased payments to teacher pension plans on behalf of districts. The proposals call for one-time contributions to the pension plans rather than recurring pension contribution support on behalf of local districts like Colorado (Aa1 stable) and Michigan (Aa1 stable) have recently committed to provide. Additional states are likely to increase funding for teacher pensions,reflecting the growing credit risks underfunded plans present.

Right Cause, Wrong Method? Examining the Politics of State Takeover in Georgia

Source: Richard O. Welsh, Sheneka Williams, Shafiqua Little, Jerome Graham, Urban Affairs Review, Volume: 55 issue: 3, May 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
A growing number of states are using state-run school districts to take over and improve persistently underperforming schools. This article uses Georgia to examine the politics of state takeover. We analyze the supporting and opposing coalitions as well as the alignment between state takeover and charter schools in the campaign for the constitutional amendment to create a statewide turnaround district. Our findings show that corporate interests, the governor, and nonprofit organizations supported state takeover, whereas educators, parents, and community organizations opposed state takeover. There was bipartisan support across coalitions and a crisscrossing of interests regarding local control and the path to school improvement. There are divergent views on charter schools, with supporters of state takeover favoring charter schools.

Patrolling Public Schools: The Impact of Funding for School Police on Student Discipline and Long‐term Education Outcomes

Source: Emily K. Weisburst, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Volume 38, Issue 2, Spring 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
As police officers have become increasingly common in U.S. public schools, their role in school discipline has often expanded. While there is growing public debate about the consequences of police presence in schools, there is scant evidence of the impact of police on student discipline and academic outcomes. This paper provides the first quasi‐experimental estimate of funding for school police on student outcomes, leveraging variation in federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants. Exploiting detailed data on over 2.5 million students in Texas, I find that federal grants for police in schools increase middle school discipline rates by 6 percent. The rise in discipline is driven by sanctions for low‐level offenses or school code of conduct violations. Further, I find that Black students experience the largest increases in discipline. I also find that exposure to a three‐year federal grant for school police is associated with a 2.5 percent decrease in high school graduation rates and a 4 percent decrease in college enrollment rates.

State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) – 2018

Source: State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), April 2018

From the executive summary:
…Although the price of college has been rising for students and families, so has the potential economic benefit of earning a postsecondary credential or degree. Greater attention to both the costs and benefits of higher education influences the environment in which political leaders, policymakers, and educators make decisions.

No single report can provide definitive answers to the broad and fundamental questions of state higher education finance policy, but the SHEF report supplies important context and trend analysis to help inform policy decisions. SHEF provides the earliest possible review of state and local support, tuition revenue, and enrollment trends for the most recently completed fiscal year. This year’s report focuses on FY 2018, which for most states ran from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.

The report includes:
• An explanation of the measures and methods used in the SHEF metrics for analysis;
• A description of the revenue sources and uses for higher education;
• An analysis of national trends in enrollment and revenue;
• Comparisons of the SHEF metrics across states and over time;
• Indicators of state tax capacity, tax effort, and relative allocations for higher education; and
• A series of case studies that add important context and interpretation of the data presented in the report