Robert M. Costrell

    Author Bio:
    Robert M. Costrell is Professor of Education Reform and Economics and holds the Endowed Chair in Education Accountability at the University of Arkansas. His areas of expertise include standards-based reform, school finance, and teacher pensions. Professor Costrell has both an academic and policy-making background. He was a member of the economics department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1978 to 2006. His academic career has featured seminal publications on the economic theory of educational standards, as well as the theory of income distribution and testing. These have appeared in the top economics journals, such as the American Economic Review and the Journal of Political Economy. He has also written on education policy and finance for general audiences in journals such as Brookings Papers on Education Policy and Education Next. From 1999 to 2006, Dr. Costrell served in major policy roles for three governors of Massachusetts, including policy research director and chief economist. He worked closely with the governors and the commissioner of education throughout this critical period, when Massachusetts' accountability reforms, based on exit exams, went into effect. As education advisor to Governor Mitt Romney, he helped develop the governor’s comprehensive education reform proposal of 2005, and also led the reforms of the state’s district funding formula adopted in 2006 and charter funding formula in 2004. In 2003, Dr. Costrell’s extensive expert testimony in Massachusetts’ school finance case (Hancock v. Driscoll) proved critical to the successful defense of that state's education reform program. He represented the administration on the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (2001-03) and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (2005-06). Dr. Costrell has served on the Steering Committee to develop an economics assessment for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2001-02), and the U.S. Department of Education’s Advisory Council on Education Statistics, appointed by Secretary Paige (2001-02). He was recently appointed by Secretary Spellings to serve on the National Technical Advisory Council. Professor Costrell joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas in August 2006. His current research topics include teacher pension policy, fiscal impact of school choice, longitudinal analysis of student achievement, and methodologies for school funding estimation. Professor Costrell received his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University in 1978 and his B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan in 1972.


The Rising Cost of Teachers’ Health Care

Insurance costs for teachers are 26 percent higher than they are for private-sector professionals

SPRING 2013 / VOL. 13, NO. 2

Fixing Teacher Pensions

Is it enough to adjust existing plans?

Fall 2011 / Vol. 11, No. 4

Teacher Retirement Benefits

Even in economically tough times, costs are higher than ever.

Spring 2009 / Vol. 9, No. 2

Golden Handcuffs

Teachers who change jobs or move pay a high price

Winter 2010 / Vol. 10, No. 1

Peaks, Cliffs, and Valleys

The peculiar incentives of teacher pensions

Winter 2008 / Vol. 8, No. 1

Blog Posts/Multimedia

School Pension Costs Have Doubled Over the Last Decade, Now Top $1,000 Per Pupil Nationally

Employer pension costs represent a significant drain on resources that might otherwise have been available for classroom expenditures.


Teacher Pension Costs: High, Rising, and Out of Control

While private sector pension costs have been relatively stable at around 10.5 percent of salaries, the teacher pension costs have climbed from 11.9 percent of salaries in March 2004 to 17.0 percent today.


A Modest Proposal for Pension Reform

Fundamental reform—based on tying benefits to contributions—is needed to fix these broken systems.


Pension Reform Would Be Good for Teachers

Podcast: Robert Costrell and Michael Podgursky talk with Education Next about ways to eliminate the peculiar incentives built into current teacher pension systems.


Yes, We Have No Bananas

In a recent Education Next article we talked about winners and losers in teacher pension systems, and about the huge costs these systems impose on mobile teachers due to the back-loading of benefits. In a letter to the editor written in response to our article, Beth Almeida of the National Institute on Retirement Security takes us to task for describing this phenomenon as “redistribution,” noting that such a practice is illegal. Since we don’t want to get pension and teacher union officials in trouble, we have a modest proposal.


Teacher Pension Reform: A Way Out of the Impasse

For more than a decade, debate over reform of public pensions has been in a rut. On one side, some reformers have favored scrapping traditional teacher pension plans in favor of the IRA-type plans received by most private-sector professionals. On the other side, teacher unions, retiree groups, and defined-benefit pension plan professionals fight hard to protect existing plans. Each side has legitimate points.


Teacher Pension Reform

Video: Robert Costrell talks with Education Next about the ways that teacher pension plans punish short-term and mobile teachers and reward teachers who spend their entire career teaching in one state.

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