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Wow, “It’s deja vu all over again” as Yogi Berra said. There I was at the Farm Bureau Forum for the candidates last Tuesday, 25 September, listening to comments from Mike McLachlan (candidate running against current State Representative for Colorado 59th House District, J. Paul Brown) and I thought I had gone back in time to last year’s forum on Prop 103, which we defeated in 2011. Here was Mike saying that Colorado ranked 49th (or 48th) of 50 states in its funding for K-12 schools and how we had to appropriate more money for our schools to be competitive. I guess he means by raising taxes, since he keeps criticizing J. Paul for cutting programs, which is the only other way to free up more money for the schools. I thought we had laid this bogus argument to rest last year, but it seems like a zombie — it just keeps coming back.
Let’s look at the reality. First, Colorado is not, as Mike McLachlan claimed, 48th or 49th in the nation in funding K-12 schools. Using information from the National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data and Nation’s Report Card, both a March 2006 study by Benjamin DeGrow from the Independence Institute reported on the relationship between spending and test scores. When looking at Per-Pupil Spending vs. Test Score Results, Mr. DeGrow’s study found that, “In 1991-1992, Colorado ranked: 22nd in the nation in total per-pupil education spending and 17th out of 41 participating states and D.C. in average NAEP scores. Ranking states by inflation corrected dollars per student, in 2002-2003, Colorado ranked 26th in the nation in total per-pupil education spending and 15th out of all 50 states and D.C. in average NAEP scores.
Mr. McLachlan claims that yet more money is needed for Colorado’s schools. But research indicates no correlation between school spending and student performance. A 14 August 2011 Denver Post article stated “… Wyoming, for example, spends nearly twice what we do … but their students … are performing at the same level as Colorado.” Colorado budget forecast for 2011/12 shows K-Higher education receiving 48.3 percent — $3.458 of state expenditures — this is even larger when all sources for education funding are included (Federal and property tax). At the national level, a CNN article from 21 September 2011 reports, “SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.” Would more money raise them? Not if history, rather than rhetoric, is considered.
Mr. DeGrow’s conclusion: “Adding more dollars in resources provides no guarantee of academic success.” More money has not improved student education as measured by test results. From 1992 to 2003, 27 of 42 states with available testing data increased per-pupil spending more than Colorado: of the 27 states, only Delaware also showed greater gains than Colorado in fourth-grade reading scores — more money has apparently not helped.
So, if you voted against Prop 103 last year, vote against Mike McLachlan this year — he’s carrying the same old message, spend more money — it’s bound to help sooner or later.