Thursday, July 16, 2009

Big Budget Math and the Teacher Incentive Fund

As Sly Stone and Bootsy Collins always say: When you talk public education, you gotta keep it wonky...

Numbers look big until you look at other big numbers.

A key House panel today took action on the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal 2010 budget, approving a plan that embraces one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities: providing a big increase for a program that rewards effective teachers....

The bill as approved by the House panel would provide $446 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund, more than quadrupling the $97 million provided this fiscal year and close to meeting President Obama’s request of $487 million. That would be in addition the $200 million provided for the program under the stimulus law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
--Education Week, 7.10.09

Wow. That's $687 million to reward "effective" teachers. Sounds so impressive.

Yet...I should have looked harder, but near as I can tell there are around 6 million K-12 school teachers in the U.S., with about half, a little over 3 million of those teaching public school. Yeah, only 50% teaching public school sounds a little low, so let's just go with the 3 million public school teacher figure and do a little long division.

The Administration wants $687 million for "effective teachers". If we handed out "teacher incentive" awards to the "best" 5% percent of public school teachers, around 150,000 teachers would be sharing the "effective teacher" cash.

$687,000,000 divided by 150,000 teachers (carry the one, I before E except after C.....)

I get $4,580 per teacher.

Of course that doesn't include a few mitigating (costly) factors. These include program oversight, development and implementation. How much would it cost to go from the current half-ass "evaluation" process to one rigorous enough to truly find "effective" teachers? How much would it cost to institute such rigor across all the public school districts in the United States?

Methinks that $4,580 per teacher would be going down quite a bit.

Me also thinks I know why nobody ever reads my wonky education posts. I want to take a nap now, and I wrote it. It's also only 10:30 in the morning.

Nevertheless, perhaps it's important to remember that, despite the exponential growth in the federal education budget these days, the millions and billions being thrown around aren't quite as impressive when one considers the sheer size of the public education beast.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for doinng the math. It is people like you and John Stewart who seem to make government so simple! wink wink.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. It helps keep me sane.

A teacher

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! And of course, who will decide what this merit pay is based on? Because here in Alabama the good ol' boy network among football coaches still reigns supreme. I am sure they would all merit extra pay. Heck, they already do. Teach one class only & still get paid a $26,000 stipend and bonus money for making it to the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Here's the factor that is left out of your post: the Teacher Incentive Fund is a competitive grant. This means that only school districts with enough resources to put together one of these 100-page monster grant proposals and budgets (i.e. a team of 2 or 3 or more working full time for a couple of months if it's going to be well done)- and not just any resources, but COMPETENT PEOPLE...only these school districts will actually get the money. So unfortunately, it is even worse than it originally sounds. Also, with the new national push for holding results in higher regard than process and learning, you can bet that a big chunk of money on the approved proposals is going to go to assessment and administrative costs.

jscotkey said...

Anonymous #4 (if I count correctly): You're right about the grant aspect, something I failed to get into in the post. I also wanted to emphasize that $200 million of the Fund comes as a one-shot deal from the "Stimulus" bill. Other details (and there are many, many details) can be found at:

Anonymous said...

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AsperGirl said...

No offense, but some teachers are worth more than others. It's really much harder to be an effective math & science teacher than it is to be an entertaining music, art, English or PE teacher. And it's harder to recruit the math & science majors.

If you exclude the liberal arts teachers, there is enough money to substantially improve U.S. education using teacher incentives, particular in the areas where we are lagging, math & science