Monthly Archives: May 2016

Biopharmaceutical sector provides outsized economic benefit

PhRMA is out with a study that shows the biopharmaceutical sector has an enormously positive impact on job creation and economic growth in New York State. According to a newly released report, the sector provides more than 50,000 direct jobs and nearly 200,000 in additional jobs are supported by the sector. These jobs range in industry from science, to management, to architecture and engineering, to transportation, and more.

Those jobs account for more than $19B in wages to New York State residents. That income translates to roughly $4.5B in tax revenue for the state and federal government.

Beyond that, between director and indirect output, the goods and services produced by the sector generates a combined $74.1B in economic activity. That equals roughly $182,000 in economic output per employee, a truly astounding figure.

The full PhRMA report can be accessed here. A copy of the New York economic impact is posted below.

Biopharmaceutical sector provides economic benefit

PPI Series: The Common Core Standards Represent “the Best of Our Knowledge”

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

Part two of an ongoing series on higher standards in New York State

Ever since 1983, when President Ronald Reagan called for state leaders to raise expectations for their education systems, the issue of state standards has been part of the education policy conversation.  Over the decades that followed, each state developed its own standards, including New York, which approved “learning standards” in seven content areas in 1996.  But this patchwork led to frustration among policymakers, who wanted to be able to compare student data across states in order to determine the relative effectiveness of their schools and education policies.  State-by-state variation in standards also meant that American students faced vast differences in educational expectations depending on where they happened to live. Some states intentionally set low standards, in a so-called “race to the bottom,” so that they could claim that a higher number of their students were achieving proficiency.

Thus, in 2009, governors and state education commissioners from 51 states and territories agreed to create shared standards in ELA and math.  A team of content experts, education researchers, teachers, and higher education faculty was assembled to begin the development process.  New York contributed more experts to the K-12 standards development teams than any other state; these included certified teachers, representatives of the teacher’s unions, and SUNY faculty. In March 2010, the National Governors Association released a draft for public feedback, and more than 10,000 individual comments were received.  New York had more than 570 commenters—including parents, higher education faculty, and over 300 teachers—far outnumbering the participation in any other state except California. The final standards were released in June 2010, and over the months that followed, individual states further reviewed them and decided whether to adopt them.

Ultimately, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia adopted the Common Core standards.  Because the Common Core standards were developed through a state-led, open and collaborative process that drew on the best available expertise, they can truly be said to embody “the best of our knowledge.”  The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank that specializes in analyzing education standards, describes the features that make the Common Core standards so much better than pre-existing state standards:

They are admirably aligned with rigorous research (on early reading instruction, for example); explicit about the quality and complexity of reading and writing that should be expected of students every year; very solid on arithmetic as a clear priority in the elementary grades; ambitious in aiming for college and career readiness by the end of twelfth grade; and relatively jargon-free.

Moreover, expectations are now consistent across more than 40 states and are no longer dependent on a student’s zip code.

Yet every passing week seems to bring a news story about another state in which the Common Core is under attack.  Many of these stories are based on bills that were introduced by state legislators but ultimately failed to become law, or lawsuits sponsored by interest groups who misleadingly paint the standards and testing consortia as forcible intrusions by the Obama administration into state and local matters.  While it is true that federal Race to the Top grants provided financial incentives that hastened adoption of the standards and financed the testing consortia, state participation in those programs was voluntary.  The state-driven common standards movement pre-dates Race to the Top, and most states welcomed the influx of federal funding in support of their efforts.

The Common Core standards are in effect in more than 40 states, including every state that originally adopted them except Oklahoma and South Carolina.  In response to political controversy, some states have re-branded the standards by changing the name but have quietly retained the substance.  More than a dozen states, including New York, have adapted the standards by adding supplementary language—a move that was anticipated by the original adoption agreement under the so-called “15 percent rule.” Numerous states, including New York, have postponed or pulled back from full-scale participation in the Common Core testing consortia, while retaining the standards themselves.  Several states, including New York, have launched processes to review the standards and associated tests.

All of this has done little to roll back the Common Core standards, and it is arguable that the additional scrutiny and fine-tuning at the state level will ultimately strengthen the standards and improve their implementation.

To read part one in the series, please click here.

PPI Series: Common Core: Here to Stay?

PPI Common Core: Here to Stay?

Part one of an ongoing series on higher standards in New York State

Each passing week seems to bring another negative story about “Common Core”:  viral social media posts show nonsensical math homework assignments that stump parents; presidential candidates and state legislators across the nation grab headlines by vowing to repeal the standards; and Governor Cuomo’s Common Core Task Force has recommended modifying the standards and associated policies. Does all this mean that the Common Core is going away? And does it even matter?

Over the past five years, at the same time that the media have been reporting controversies and protests, the Common Core standards were taking root firmly in classrooms across the nation. The New York Common Core Task Force’s recent review of the standards has yielded a set of recommendations for change, and some of those changes are considered quite significant by teachers and parents. Most notably, the Board of Regents has adopted the Task Force’s recommendation to remove any consequences for teachers’ and principals’ evaluations related to New York’s grades 3-8 ELA and math tests until the 2019-2020 school year. As for the standards themselves, the Task Force explicitly affirmed that New York must maintain high educational standards and “build upon the foundation established by the Common Core standards,” while acknowledging that some changes should be considered to ensure that the standards in the early grades are developmentally appropriate. The New York State Education Department has pledged to use feedback received from parents and teachers familiar with the standards to “identify where and what changes are needed to make New York’s Common Core ELA and Math Learning Standards stronger.”

In the coming weeks, this blog mini-series will argue that higher standards are important to the economic future of our state and our citizens, and will take you on a guided tour through the many reasons why I believe the Common Core is here to stay.

A thought on education

As voters across New York State head to the polls to approve or reject their school district’s budget, we thought it would be appropriate to share some freshly released data on education spending. According to Congressional Quarterly’s just released 2016 State Rankings, New York had the ninth lowest teacher/pupil ratio in the nation as of the 2014 school year. New York’s ratio of 13 students per teacher is significantly better than California’s, the worst state on the list – at 24.3 students per teacher. Not surprisingly, New York ranked first in teacher salary, coming in at an average of $77,628, $25,000 more than the 25th ranked state. Despite the low teacher/pupil ratio, and high salaries, New York remains toward the middle or bottom of the pack in reading and math proficiency (CQ ranked 4th and 8th grade students for the 2015 testing year). Adding to the bad news, our state ranked 39th in public high school graduation rates for the 2013 school year, at just 76.8 percent -well below the nationwide average of 81.4 percent. We also ranked near the top in both state and local government education expenditures and per capita state and local government spending, coming in at 3rd and 5th respectively.

So, what does all this mean? It is our belief that the status quo is not working, and these numbers bear that out. The time has long since passed for New York to stop throwing more and more money at education without seeing better results. In our mind, this only highlights the need for elected officials to remain committed to a strong Property Tax Cap and resist calls to weaken it. The tax cap is working, now we need to pass the accompanying mandate relief and curriculum enhancements to ensure local governments remain solvent and our students are adequately prepared for the job opportunities that will be available to them. If you’re looking for proof that the combination of a tax cap and a strong commitment to higher standards equals results, look no further than our neighbors in Massachusetts. The Bay State, which enacted a property tax cap in 1980, three decades before New York, and led the way on higher standards, ranks at or near the top in virtually every CQ category. New York should join Massachusetts as an educational leader and not succumb to the voices fighting to maintain the status quo. One of the best and easiest decisions we believe state policymakers can make to improve our state’s education rankings is to provide additional funding and resources to innovative public education models like P-TECH and charter schools.

If the P-TECH program is not something you are familiar with, we encourage you to visit their website to learn more. You can also go to www.bcnys.org and search P-TECH for additional resources and information on this innovative and demonstrably successful education alternative, and read a FAQ for employers.

Weakening the tax cap?

We’ve made no secret of our support of the two percent Property Tax Cap, in our opinion, the tax cap – coupled with the self-imposed cap on state spending, have been the signature achievements of the Cuomo administration and have helped correct years of outrageous spending increases and rising property taxes. Despite these achievements, the voices calling for a weakening of the tax cap continue to grow louder.

In today’s Newsday, school officials are quoted as saying the two percent cap is putting the squeeze on their budgets, and they argue the two percent cap is really more like .2 percent, since inflation continues to be so low.

The change they are asking for is subtle, but substantive. They want lawmakers to make the tax cap a hard two percent, instead of currently capping increases at the lower of two percent, or the consumer price index (CPI). They say the lack of growth in the CPI is putting a strain on school budgets and forcing them to tighten their belts in ways the law never intended. It is our belief that the real “strain” does not come from the fact that the CPI has kept the tax increases significantly below two percent, it’s that municipalities continue to be held hostage by antiquated laws that make it far too easy for the teacher’s unions to achieve sizeable yearly pay increases well above the rate of inflation.

At a time when regular worker salaries remain stagnant, and overall economic growth is weak, it makes all the sense in the world that unions should play by the same rules. We hope lawmakers continue to recognize that the tax cap is a tremendous achievement and resist calls to weaken it.