November Updates for GRA Organizations

GRA Reporter for November 2012

News and publications for GRA organizations.

Save the Date — 2013 GRA Conference

The 2013 GRA conference will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from Sunday evening, July 28, through noon Wednesday, July 31.  While the full conference schedule has not yet been determined, education reform is likely to be the topic of at least one panel discussion given that Milwaukee is home to the oldest private school choice program in the country.  In addition, Wisconsin’s landmark public sector collective bargaining reforms and their impacts on local governments and school districts also is a likely discussion topic.  Accommodations will be provided at the Hotel Metro in Downtown Milwaukee at the reasonable cost of $129.99 per night.  Those wishing to arrive early also can partake in the German Fest at Milwaukee’s famous Summerfest grounds on July 27-28.


Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama

The November edition of The PARCA Perspective entitled, "Closing the Gaps in Alabama’s Public Schools" contains two reports which analyze student performance in the state’s public school system.  The first analysis looks at the achievement gaps between demographic subgroups, and the second piece discusses the improvements and successes also occurring within Alabama’s public schools.

Illinois Fiscal Policy Council and Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois

(The Illinois Fiscal Policy Council is the new name of the Illinois Tax Foundation)

The Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois was involved in discussions surrounding Senate Bill 282, which would require corporations to publicly disclose information that is included in Tax Returns filed with the Illinois Department of Revenue. In addition to releasing a policy statement opposing the bill for undermining the traditional notion of taxpayer privacy and business confidentiality, TFI spoke about the bill in the media and held conference calls to discuss its provisions with members.

Additionally during legislative sessions the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois publishes "TFI Report from the Capitol," a weekly summary of legislative and administrative developments as well as recent reports on tax and fiscal issues.

Civic Federation

The State of Illinois Infrastructure
This report provides an overview of the condition and funding of Illinois infrastructure based on a compilation of various needs assessments from public agencies that manage infrastructure in the State including the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, the Regional Transportation Authority, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority. The Civic Federation found that State and local governments could need to invest more than $300 billion over the next 30 years to maintain public infrastructure throughout the State. A synopsis of this report was included in the State Budget Crisis Task Force's report on Illinois.

Forest Preserve District of Cook County FY2013 Budget Analysis
The Civic Federation supported the Forest Preserve District of Cook County's FY2013 proposed $190.3 million budget for its discipline in identifying non-tax revenue sources to hold the property tax levy flat for the fourth year in a row while maintaining substantial reserves. The Civic Federation, however, remained concerned about several negative trends threatening the District's long-term fiscal health. The funded ratio of the District's pension fund fell to 61.6% in FY2011, now below a financially sustainable level. The Civic Federation continues to urge the creation of a separately-elected, unpaid Forest Preserve Board instead of the same commissioners serving both Cook County and the Forest Preserve District.

Civic Federation Supports Governor's Veto of Gaming Expansion in Illinois
The Civic Federation supports Governor Pat Quinn's veto of Senate Bill 1849, which would authorize casino gambling in Chicago and significantly expand gambling in other parts of Illinois. The Federation strongly agrees with the Governor that the Illinois General Assembly should put aside gaming expansion until after the passage of comprehensive pension reform. Additionally, the Federation opposes ownership of the Chicago casino license by the City of Chicago.

Estimated Full Value of Real Property in Cook County: 2001-2010
This report provides estimates of the total market value of real property in Cook County from 2001-2010 and shows how property value is spread among the City of Chicago, the northern and the southern suburbs. The full market value of real estate in Cook County was approximately $449.8 billion in tax assessment year 2010. This represents a decline of $100.3 billion, or 18.2%, from the 2009 estimated full value. Tax year 2010 is the most recent year for which data are available.

Other Publications:
The Civic Federation's two blogs had a total of nine posts in November: and
Topics included the continued decline in funded status of the City of Chicago's four pension funds and the State of Illinois' pensions as well as Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.


Bureau of Governmental Research

Metro Area Pension Costs and the Factors that Drive Them
In The Rising Cost of Yesterday: Metro Area Pension Costs and the Factors that Drive Them, BGRexamines 18 defined benefit pension plans available to local government workers in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes (the Plans). The report tallies the costs the Plans impose on local government entities in the three parishes, and compares the pension benefits they offer to those available to private sector workers and other state and local government workers across the U.S.


Worcester Regional Research Bureau

Listen to the Research Bureau Angle!  The Research Bureau has a weekly radio column every Monday between 12:50-1 p.m. on AM 830 WCRN. If you aren’t in the listening area, all past shows are archived here.

Boston Municipal Research Bureau

Boston Teachers' Contract Settled for 2010-2016
A Special Report summarizes five major changes in newly adopted teacher contract for Boston Public Schools: school flexibility in teacher hiring, a teacher compensation structure that rewards effective teachers based on performance, a stronger teacher evaluation system, a greater voice for parents and students in school decision-making and an extended school day.

Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations

Biennial Report for Fiscal Years 2010-11 and 2011-12
The current biennial report describes the accomplishments and primary activities of the Commission during fiscal years 2010-11 and 2011-12. The report outlines the hard work and effort of the Commission and its staff in aiding local governments, the General Assembly, and the State of Tennessee.

Texas Taxpayers and Research Association

2013 TTARA Statement of Fiscal and Tax Policy
TTARA recently adopted a Statement of Fiscal and Tax Policy for 2013.

The Utah Foundation

Reaching for Educational Equity:  An Evaluation of Utah’s Rural Schools
The Utah Foundation released this research report on November 29, 2012.  Rural schools educate about 15% of Utah’s students.  Utah’s rural educators -- concerned about the challenges facing their schools -- requested that Utah Foundation analyze educational inputs and outputs to determine whether students in these areas are receiving opportunities for success comparable to non-rural students.

This evaluation finds that rural schools are challenged in hiring teachers, finding teachers with specialties, and finding teachers who teach multiple subjects.  They also come up short in offering the wide array of courses that non-rural schools offer.

Yet rural students tend to perform better than non-rural students on annual state tests.  Rural students also graduate at a higher rate, though in the past several years this difference has been diminishing.  On the other hand, rural students have lower college entrance exam scores and are less likely to enter college.

The research report:

The complete report:

Supplemental materials


Public Policy Forum

15th Annual Comparative Analysis of Racine Unified School District
In addition to this report's traditional focus on analysis of academic performance, district finances, and contextual factors for the Racine Unified School District using comparisons with ten peer districts, this report includes analysis of achievement growth under a value-added model and under Racine's voucher program. The major findings of the report include the district falling short of grade level targets, but achieving a modest gain in high school completion rates and gains in reading proficiency among 10th graders. Other trends are more mixed, but there is an indication in the data that early childhood education initiatives could be having a positive effect.

Other Publications:
The Public Policy Forum's "Milwaukee Talkie" blog had one post in November:
The post summarized findings from its report on the Racine Unified School District.
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