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Sean Corcoran, (212) 992-9468,
Dan Quinn, (517) 203-2940,

Think Twice Review of NYC Reforms

Sonecon analysis seriously flawed, useless for policymakers

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Mar. 31, 2014) – A recent paper attempts to estimate the economic impact of school reforms implemented by former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  The report suggests that reforms enacted by Bloomberg boosted the city's economy by an estimated $74 billion.  However, a review of the report out today finds that it is so seriously flawed as to be useless for policymakers.

The Economic Benefits of New York City's Public School Reforms, 2002-2013 was produced by Robert J. Shapiro of Sonecon, Inc., a Washington, D.C., economic advisory firm, and Kevin A. Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute.  Sean P. Corcoran, associate professor of educational economics at New York University, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think thank review project. The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) produced the review with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The paper highlighted a range of school reforms implemented by Bloomberg: (1) centralizing school governance while increasing both financial autonomy and accountability for individual school leaders; (2) raising teacher salaries; (3) standardizing the curriculum; (4) tying school funding to student need; and (5) aggressively expanding school choice, including the opening of 160 charter schools.

An estimated $74 billion impact was attributed to the reforms (based on earnings of students who graduated under the reforms – who might not have otherwise – and on property values). The report assumes that higher graduation rates and charter school availability increased residential property values in the city.

Professor Corcoran writes, "While such estimates are always an exercise in some level of speculation, this report relies on highly inappropriate assumptions to reach its conclusions."

Breaking down the math of the authors, Corcoran calculates that the impact on property values attributed to the Bloomberg-era educational reforms is comparable to "two-thirds of the entire increase in residential property values between 2007 and 2013."

Corcoran found that many NYC public school students did experience "real educational and economic gains" during Bloomberg's time in office, but the estimates that the Sonecon report makes, he concludes, "are pure fantasy."

Find this Think Twice Review on the Great Lakes Center website:

Find The Economic Benefits of the New York City's Public School Reforms, 2002-2013 on the web:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publication. The project is made possible with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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