The 'It’s Never Too Early to Revise History’ Award

Sonecon and Inc. for The Economic Benefits of New York City’s Public School Reforms, 2002-2013

Michael Bloomberg hadn’t yet left New York’s City Hall before a series of publications were released that put a rosy gloss on his administration’s educational record. One such report, The Economic Benefits of New York City’s Public School Reforms, 2002-2013, was produced by Sonecon, Inc. a Washington, D.C., economic advisory firm that claims to apply “methodologies that produce analytically unassailable results.” Sonecon’s chairman, Robert Shapiro, authored the report along with Kevin Hassett, the American Enterprise Institute scholar who co-authored the visionary (i.e., delusional) 1999 book, “Dow 36,000.” The Sonecon report credited New York City education reforms during the Bloomberg years with boosting the City’s economy to the tune of $74 billion. “While such estimates are always an exercise in some level of speculation, this report relies on highly inappropriate assumptions to reach its conclusions,” reviewer and NYU economics of education professor Sean Corcoran explained. “Specifically, it attributes all gains in high school completion and college enrollment to the reforms, applies national statistics on earnings and college completion to the marginal graduate in NYC, and extrapolates cross-sectional associations between graduation rates and home prices at the zip code level as the causal effect of higher graduation rates.” For example, breaking down the report’s math, Corcoran finds that the estimated impact of the Bloomberg-era reforms on property values is equivalent to “two-thirds of the entire increase in residential property values between 2007 and 2013.” Finally, let’s not forget that the Bloomberg-era reforms were preceded by a landmark court ruling which, Corcoran notes, “helped drive a large increase in state resources for the City’s schools”—yet that case is not mentioned in the Sonecon report. The “back of the envelope” estimates that the Sonecon report makes, Corcoran concludes, “are pure fantasy.”